18 Difference Between Conductors, Semiconductors and Insulators (With Table)

Physic is a branch of science that deals with the structure of matter and how its constituents interact with nature. The scope of physic comprises mechanical and electrical studies.

Electrical scope deals with electricity and conductivity. Conductors, semiconductors, and insulators are crucial components that entail conductivity.

So, what is the main difference between conductors, semiconductors, and insulators? Conductors are materials that allow electric flow. Semiconductors are materials that possess moderate conductivity. Insulators inhibit the flow of electric current in them.

This article provides further differences between conductors, semiconductors, and insulators in a tabular form. Take the time to read through it and get to know their examples.

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Comparison Table (Conductors vs Semiconductors vs Insulators)

Basic Terms Conductors Semiconductors Insulators
Meaning These are substances that allow an electric current to flow through them. These are substances that allow the moderate flow of electric charge. These are substances that do not allow the flow of electric current.
Conductivity High Moderate Low
Forbidden Gab Does not exist Small existence Large existence
Resistivity Low Moderate High
Temperature coefficient of resistance Positive Negative Negative
Charge carriers on the conduction band Completely filled Partially filled Completely empty
Conduction electrons Numerous Very less Neutral numbers
Current flow Caused by the presence of free electrons. Caused by free electrons and holes A negligible number of free electrons.
Valence electrons Only one valency electron in the outermost energy level Four valence electrons in the outermost energy level. Eight valence electrons in the outermost energy level.
Overlapping Bands Valence and conduction bands overlap Valence and conduction bands have a separate gap of 1.1eV. Both bands are divided by an energy gap of 6eV – 10eV.
Type of Bonds Metallic bonding Covalent bonding Ionic bonding
Effect of temperature on conductivity Decreases Increases increases
Effect of doping Resistance increases Resistance remains unchanged. Resistance decreases.
Absolute zero Behaves like superconductors Behaves like insulators Behave like insulators
Effect of increasing temperature Electron carriers decrease. Electron carries increases The electron carries increases.
Applications Conducting wires and transformers. Diodes, transistors, and optocouplers Sports equipment and home appliances.
Examples Copper, Aluminum, graphite, etc. Silicon, Germanium, arsenic, etc. Paper, rubber, glass, plastic, etc.

What Are Conductors?

Conductors are substances that allow the easy flow of electric current through them. The permission occurs when the electrons move from one atom to another when a proper electric field is applied.

These materials contain high conductivity when compared to semiconductors and insulators. The voltage charge forces the electrons to move from the valence band to the conduction band due to electrical fields.

The movement of charge carriers allows the flow of large electric current through the device. Examples of conductors are copper, aluminum, and graphite.

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What Are Semiconductors?

Semiconductors are substances that possess moderate electrical conductivity properties. But the charge carriers are both electrons and holes.

When the temperature is absolute zero, semiconductors behave like insulators. It happens since there is no free movement of electrons in the outermost shell.

The valance band and conduction band do not overlap in semiconductors. It is the reason behind the small energy difference with conductors. Examples of semiconductors are silicon and arsenic.

What Are Insulators?

Insulators are substances that inhibit the flow of electric current through them. These materials are termed as poor conductors of electrical charge.

The energy gap is quite high and this does not excite valence electrons in the outermost shell. It happens since the electrons cannot jump into the conduction band from the valence band.

But extremely high temperatures can force the electrons to jump into the conduction band and allow electric current flow. Examples of insulators are papers and rubbers.

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Difference Between Conductors, Semiconductors, and Insulators

  1. Conductors have high conductivity. Semiconductors have moderate conductivity. Insulators have low conductivity.
  2. Conductors have low resistance. Semiconductors have moderate resistance. Insulators have high resistance.
  3. Conductors have completely filled conduction band. Semiconductors have partially filled a conduction band. Insulators have completely empty conduction band.
  4. Conductors have metallic bonding. Semiconductors have covalent bonding. Insulators have ionic bonding.
  5. Conductors have no forbidden gap. Semiconductors have a small forbidden gap. Insulators have a large forbidden gap.

In Conclusion

Conductors, semiconductors, and insulators have numerous industrial applications. The application of these materials is based on their electrical conductivity and other crucial properties.

The movement of electrons from the valency band into the conduction band is the reason behind the electrical current flow. Semiconductors lie between conductors and insulators.

Therefore, the main difference between conductors, semiconductors, and insulators is based on conductivity. Conductors and semiconductors allow the flow of current, unlike insulators.

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