Conductive Materials

Learn about conductive materials and materials that do not conduct electricity.  Gather some items from both categories like, a banana, rubber bands, coins, paper clips, water (you can try distilled and from-the-tap), paper, cloth, aluminum foil, and a small piece of wood.

Create a testing apparatus to check whether these materials conduct.  You need some copper electrical wire (super cheap from the hardware store), or you can buy wires with alligator clips from a science supplier.  You also need a D battery and a small light bulb like a flashlight light bulb.  A holder for the battery and light bulb can be nice, but is not necessary.

Make a circuit by attaching a wire from the battery to the light bulb and from the light bulb to the battery.  Use tape or rubber bands to hold it in place, unless you’ve chosen to purchase battery and bulb holders. With the wires all connected the light bulb will light. The battery will also get hot so be careful.

Predict which of the materials you gathered will conduct electricity and which will not. Write your hypothesis on a science experiment form.

Now insert the material to be tested at some point in the circuit.  Can the electricity flow through the new material?  Make a chart to show what conducts and what does not.

Points to Discuss

  • Electricity is moving, flowing electrons so things that conduct have electrons that are free to move from atom to atom.
  • Non-distilled water has lots of stuff dissolved in it and the stuff in it conducts electricity.  Distilled water is pure H2O with nothing dissolved so it will not conduct.  If you dissolve some salt in the distilled water it becomes a conductor.
  • Things that conduct electricity also conduct heat well.
  • Electrical wire is made of copper (usually) covered with rubber or plastic.  This is a good pairing because copper conducts very well, with very little lost energy, but plastic or rubber do not conduct at all, keeping the electricity contained.

Additional Layers

  • Research incandescent bulbs, who invented them and what effect they had on the world.
  • Where did the scientific method come from?  Do scientists really use this or is it just for school kids?  What other methods can a person use to discover new knowledge?
  • Where does the electricity in your house come from?
  • How does a battery work?

More From Layers of Learning

Try this project when you are learning about light, the middle ages, or just for fun.
Try this project when you are learning about light, the middle ages, or just for fun.

If you haven't learned about circuits you might want to back up and try this circuit lesson first.
If you haven’t learned about circuits you might want to back up and try this circuit lesson first.

Unit 2-17 has more about circuits.
Unit 2-17 has more about circuits.

Unit 1-1 Free

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