Is Gold a Good Conductor of Electricity?

The symbol Au denotes gold, a transition metal element. It has the atomic number 79 and belongs to the periodic table’s group 11. Gold is a noble metal that can be found in its natural state in rocks, alluvial deposits, and other places. Gold is a beautiful, reddish-yellow substance that is dense, malleable, and ductile in its purest form.

One of the most popular questions asked by students is whether gold conducts electricity or not. In this essay, I will respond to your question and discuss relevant issues.

Is gold a good conductor of electricity? Yes, gold, like other metals, conducts electricity. When a voltage source is applied, the delocalized electrons existing in the open space surrounding the Gold atoms operate as free charge carriers, assisting in the conduction of electricity. Because of the electric potential, these randomly moving electrons align in one direction to flow from the negative to the positive end, resulting in electricity being conducted.

What Causes Gold to Convey Electricity?

Gold, like other metals, conducts electricity because its atoms are surrounded by a sea of delocalized electrons.

These are free electrons that are not bound to any atom and are free to move around the atoms in space.

Gold has the electrical configuration [Xe] 4f145d10 6s1. Because one electron in the 6s subshell is so distant from the nucleus’s centre, it experiences very little binding force from the nucleus and is thus free to move around other atoms.

Normally, delocalized electrons roam around in space at random. When an electric potential is introduced, however, they align themselves in a specific orientation and begin to move from the negative to the positive end.

Is Gold a Good Electrical Conductor?

Yes, gold is an excellent electrical conductor. It ranks third in electrical conductivity after silver and copper.

Gold is a popular choice for a variety of electrical equipment since it is simple to use and resistant to tarnishing.

The availability of free charge carriers determines a substance’s electrical conductivity. Delocalized electrons are responsible for electricity conduction in metals. As a result, the conductivity of a metal is determined by the ease with which these free electrons are available.

The outermost electron in gold is positioned in the 6s subshell, which is fairly far from the nucleus, therefore the binding force of the nucleus has a little impact.

Gold has an initial ionisation energy of 9.2257 eV. This means that even a modest amount of energy can quickly excite these electrons and cause them to jump away from their orbital.

These electrons start floating aimlessly in free space around the atoms once they exit their orbit. They do not conduct electricity in this state, however, because the charges are cancelled amongst themselves due to unsystematic movement.

These electrons gain direction as soon as a voltage source is supplied. Because electrons are negatively charged, they travel away from the source’s negative terminal and towards the positive terminal, causing electricity to flow.

Gold’s electrical conductivity

The electrical conductivity of a substance is a measurement of its conduction property, or how well it functions as a conductor.

The sign for electrical conductivity is S/m, which stands for Siemens per metre. Therefore,

Current Density/Electrical Field Strength = Conductivity ()

The electric field intensity and current density are measured in ampere/meter square and volts per metre, respectively.

Electrical conductivity is also the reciprocal of electrical resistivity, therefore another formula is:

Electrical Resistivity () = Conductivity ()

Gold’s electrical conductivity is 4.10 X 107, which is extremely high.

Copper, with an electrical conductivity value of 5.96 X 107, and silver, with an electrical conductivity value of 6.30 X 107, are the only substances with a higher electrical conductivity than gold.

As a result, the electrical conductivity of any two substances can be used to determine which is the better conductor.

Electrical resistivity is the inverse of electrical conductivity and is a measure of the complexity faced by charge carriers during the conduction of electricity in any given medium.

Simply said, the lower the conductivity, the higher the resistivity, and vice versa.

In fact, the resistance given by that particular material is responsible for the heating of a substance during the conduction of electricity. Resistance, on the other hand, isn’t always a bad thing; resistors are frequently used in electrical circuits to protect them from damage by regulating current flow.

Gold’s electrical resistivity is 2.44 X 10-8, which is extremely low, indicating that it is an excellent conductor of electricity.

What is the Purpose of Gold in Electronics?

Because gold is a good conductor of electricity, it is used in a variety of electrical devices, including switch contacts, relay contacts, USB connectors, and so on.

Gold has the following qualities that make it suitable for use in electronics:

Gold is more malleable and ductile than other metals, making it easier to work with. Because it is so soft and bendable, one ounce of gold can be drawn into an 80-kilometer wire and three ounces of gold can be hammered into a 28-square-meter sheet.

As a result, gold is extremely beneficial in the production of tiny wires, which are utilised in a variety of miniature devices.

Gold is tarnishing resistant because it is a noble metal, meaning it does not react with air oxygen. This means that wires composed of gold will last longer, even in harsh environments.

This is why gold-plated products, such as lightning rods, are frequently found in severe conditions.

BTW, you should read this intriguing essay on whether white gold tarnishes.

Gold has a high electrical conductivity and a low electrical resistance, making it a good conductor of electricity, as explained in the previous section.

Gold vs. Copper Electrical Conductivity

Copper has a better electrical conductivity than gold. Copper is also a cheap and readily available metal, making it the first choice for usage in any form of electronics.

Gold, on the other hand, is a valuable metal associated with royalty. It has long been utilised in the manufacture of jewellery as well as ancient currency.

The question that arises here is why gold is utilised in so many devices when copper is a better conductor and is also hassle-free and available at a cheaper cost.

Gold is preferred over copper because of its superior malleability and ductility, as well as the fact that it is inert. In comparison to gold, copper is less malleable and ductile. Copper, on the other hand, is corrosive.

These qualities of gold make it particularly helpful in more advanced electronics, such as computers with a large number of gold parts.

Furthermore, other parts, such as connectors, must be more durable and long-lasting, thus gold is used instead of copper in their manufacture to improve their efficiency and lifetime.

You should also read why copper is a conductor, which I wrote.

Why are gold plated connectors deemed ‘better’ by the market if gold is a worse electrical conductor than silver and copper? – According to Quora

The conductivity of gold is graphed as a function of temperature, indicating how temperature changes affect gold conductivity.

The conductivity of gold is owing to the presence of delocalized electrons in free space around atoms, as we already know.

A certain amount of energy is required in the form of heat, which increases the kinetic energy of the electrons, causing them to become excited and quit their orbit, allowing them to conduct electricity instead of spinning around the nucleus.

When more heat is introduced to the system, however, the kinetic energy of these electrons increases, and they begin to move at faster rates.

When an electric potential is provided to such a system, the increased kinetic energy of these electrons acts against the voltage, causing some electrons to continue travelling and collide with other electrons at random. This reduces the electrical conductivity and restricts the flow of electricity.

As a result, gold’s electrical conductivity is inversely related to temperature, declining as the temperature rises. This applies to all metals.

The conductivity of gold and a few other metals as a function of temperature is graphed below:

The graph above shows that when temperature rises, the conductivity of all metals diminishes, not only gold.

Conclusion

Due to the existence of free electrons surrounding the atoms, gold conducts electricity. These liberated electrons are actually valence electrons that are energised and move out of their orbits after absorbing some energy.

Normally, delocalized electrons flow in random directions, but when an electric potential is supplied, they begin to move from the negative to the positive terminal, conducting electricity.

The formula for calculating electrical conductivity is as follows:

Current Density/Electrical Field Strength = Conductivity ()

Gold has an electrical conductivity of 4.10 X 107.

Because gold is easy to work with, tarnish-resistant, and has a high electrical conductivity, it is utilised in a variety of devices.

I hope you enjoyed the essay, and if you have any suggestions for future articles, please leave them in the comments section.

Good luck with your studies!!

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Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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