Q:

Why is copper a good conductor of heat?

A:

Quick Answer

Copper conducts heat well because its atoms contain only one free valence electrons in the outer shell. Elements with a low number of valence electrons transfer heat the best, and copper has only one.

Continue Reading
Why is copper a good conductor of heat?
Credit: Emilian Robert Vicol CC-BY 2.0

Full Answer

Valence electrons move about freely. Just as the impact of a billiard ball striking another billiard ball is greater than when it collides with multiple balls, a single electron imparts significant energy to other electrons. Since copper has only one electron in its outer shell, it transfers a strong repelling energy to electrons with which it collides.

It is the degree of energy within the metal that imparts heat. Since heat increases when the subatomic particles are able to move without resistance throughout the metal, copper is a good conductor of heat. If heat is applied to one end of a cooper wire, it travels quickly to the other end, as the electrons move unimpeded by resistance.

Electrical conductivity is indirectly proportional to resistance a metal has when an electrical field is applied. Conduction is proportional to the current. Copper has a low resistivity measured in ohms. Its conductivity, measured by siemens per meter, is high. Copper is second only to silver in its conductive properties.

Learn more about Thermodynamics
Sources:

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the best conductor of heat?

    A:

    The best conductor of heat is diamond with a thermal conductivity of more than 2,000 watts per meter per degree Kelvin at room temperature. Silver is the material with the second-highest thermal conductivity at 429 watts per meter per degree Kelvin. This makes silver the metal with the highest conductivity.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is heat conduction?

    A:

    Heat conduction is the transfer of internal energy (microscopic kinetic and potential energy) from a region of higher temperature to one of lower temperature by the interaction of particles like atoms, molecules, ions or electrons in the intervening space. Conduction can only take place within an object or material or between two objects that are in direct or indirect contact with each other.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why do metals conduct heat?

    A:

    Metals conduct heat because they have free electrons in their atoms. When a metal is subject to heat, the free electrons move, spreading the heat to the nearest atoms. The heat is then transferred throughout the metal.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why are metals such good conductors of heat?

    A:

    Metals conduct heat well for two reasons: metal ions pack very closely together in their molecular lattice, and electrons drifting through the metal carry kinetic energy around the lattice. The result is a quick elevation in particle motion that is expressed through heat energy. This conductivity is one reason why one rarely sees metal playground equipment anymore — although the slides go a lot faster than plastic ones, sitting on a slide on a hot summer afternoon is often quite painful.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore