Main content

## Physics library

### Course: Physics library > Unit 12

Lesson 1: Ohm's law and circuits with resistors- Introduction to circuits and Ohm's law
- Basic electrical quantities: current, voltage, power
- Resistors in series
- Resistors in parallel
- Example: Analyzing a more complex resistor circuit
- Analyzing a resistor circuit with two batteries
- Resistivity and conductivity
- Electric power
- Kirchhoff's current law
- Kirchhoff's voltage law
- Kirchhoff's laws
- Voltmeters and Ammeters
- Electrolytic conductivity

© 2023 Khan AcademyTerms of usePrivacy PolicyCookie Notice

# Resistivity and conductivity

Let's look at the properties of materials that cause a resistor to resist the flow of current. Explore the principles of Ohm's law, resistance, and resistivity in electrical circuits. Understand how resistance is defined by voltage and current, and how it remains constant in Ohmic materials. Discover the factors that influence resistance, including the length, cross-sectional area, and material of a resistor. Created by David SantoPietro.

## Want to join the conversation?

- How does length affect resistivity(13 votes)
- Length affects the overall resistance of a resistor. The longer a resistor, the further electrons have to travel through that resistor. This will increase resistance because the electrons will be affected by resistor for a longer period of time as they travel through it.(31 votes)

- Does resistivity depend on temperature ? If so, how?(13 votes)
- Good question and yes it definitely does depend on temperature. As matter gets hotter, the atoms jiggle about more and that extra jiggling increases the number of scattering events a charge will experience as it conducts current. Each scattering event will slow the motion of the charges and thus reduce the current flowing.

You can read more about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_resistivity_and_conductivity#Temperature_dependence(18 votes)

- Does this "wire resistance" happens also with ethernet cables? So the shorter the ethernet cable the better?(11 votes)
- yes; the sorter the less resistance so thats good thinking....

BUT also, the quality of digital data that passes through a cable can get 'reduced'. so shorter is better for accuracy of communication / signal(7 votes)

- Would conductance = σ(conductivity) * L/A(6 votes)
- You have the right idea. But, keep in mind that increasing the area of the material would increase the conductance and decreasing the length will also increase its conductance, because conductance works in the opposite to resistance.

So, the formula becomes:

G(conductance) = σ(conductivity)*A/L(2 votes)

- Why does the current increase if we increase the voltage or the potential difference?(4 votes)
- Hello Rutwik,

Perhaps it would be better to ask what causes current to flow in the first place.

I made these videos to help answer questions about voltage and current. The second video may help you visualize the situation but you'll need to watch the first video first...

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdgKqf4h0tQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1AokT4-pC0

Regards,

APD(9 votes)

- Sir , could you please explain me the difference between resistance and resistivity ?(2 votes)
- Hello Ambati,

A resistor is a physical electrical component. It exists to convert electrical energy into heat.

Resistivity is a description of a material. It describes how the material will resist the flow of electrical current.

We could put the two together in a sentence. A resistor is manufactured using a carbon core. The resistance of this resistor will depend on the resistivity of the carbon core, the length of the core, and the cross sectional area of the core.

Please see this page for the mathematical description of the equation I just mentioned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_resistivity_and_conductivity

Regards,

APD(8 votes)

- If the resistor slows down electrons, then how come the current is the same before the resistor and after the resistor?

Shouldnt the current be less after the resistor?(1 vote)- This is a misconception. Resistors DO NOT slow down electrons as they enter. Resistors simply limit the amount of current that flows through the circuit. Here is an analogy: Think of a racetrack that is filled with cars driving around in circles. There is no room for an extra car. Assuming that these cars are moving, all the cars must be moving at the exact same speed, otherwise they are going to crash. The same thing applies to the flow of current. The current must be uniform throughout the circuit. As for resistors limiting the current, here is an example:

Suppose you have a 12 V battery and you wire it up to a simple circuit with a

2Ω resistor. By Ohm's law, the current must 6 A. The current at any point in the circuit will be 6 A. Now, let's say that you remove the 2Ω resistor and replace it with a 3Ω resistor. Now, using Ohm's law you can find that the current must be 4 A. The current is still the same at all points in the circuit, but the larger resistance allows less current to flow. Hope this helps!(6 votes)

- Why do resistance happen?(2 votes)
- Resistance is the word we use for how well an object tries to resist, or you could think "slow down", a current that flows through it. Maybe you can think of resistance as a sort of squeezing. If you make one of your hands into a tube and stick a finger inside it, it goes in easily if your tube-hand is relaxed. However, when you start squeezing your tube-hand, it takes a lot more energy and time for the finger to go through. Resistance in circuits arises because the atoms that make up the substance that the current is flowing through collide with the stream of electrons and mess up their motion.(5 votes)

- How does the cross-sectional area affect resistivity?

Does temperature affect resistivity?(2 votes)- Incr. the cross-sectional area decr. the resistance and vice-versa. As for temperature effects, it depends. If we are dealing with a perfect conductor, decr. the temperature incr. the resistivity and consequently, the resistance. However, semiconductors, on decr. the temperature have lower resistivities. This is why superconductors are generally designed to be super-cooled semiconductors. Of course, technology keeps improving and this will not be so forever.

Note: Thanks to lingling40hrs for noticing my mistake.(3 votes)

- I still don't understand how area affects resistivity. Why should area matter?(2 votes)
- Hello Alex,

This is "cross sectional" area.

Think of it as a pipe. A small pipe has a small cross sectional area while a "big" pipe has a large cross sectional area. The large pipe will have a lower resistance to the flow of current.

Regards,

APD(3 votes)

## Video transcript

- [Voiceover] You
probably know that if you hook up a battery of voltage V, to a resistor of resistance R, then you'll get a certain
amount of current, and you can determine how
much current flows here by using Ohm's law. And remember, Ohm's law
says that the voltage across a resistor equals the
current through that resistor times the resistance of that resistor. So, this pretty much gives you
a way to define resistance. The resistance of the
resistor is defined to be the amount of voltage applied across it divided by the amount
of current through it. And this is good, we like
definitions, because we want to be sure that we know
what we're talking about. That's the definition of resistance. Remember, it has units of ohms. But be careful, don't fall
into the trap of thinking about this the way some people do. Some people think, "Oh okay,
if I want a bigger resistance, "I'll just increase the
voltage, 'cause that'll give me "a bigger number up top." Bigger resistance doesn't work that way. If you increase the voltage, you're gonna increase the current. And this ratio is gonna stay the same. The resistance is a constant. And this resistor, if you're
not changing the material makeup or size or
dimensions of this resistor, this number that is the
resistance is a constant, if it's truly an Ohmic material. So, Ohmic materials maintain a constant resistance,
regardless of what voltage or current you throw at them. It'll just be constant. Yeah, if you throw too
much current or voltage, the thing'll burn up. I don't suggest you do that. So, there's an operating
range here, but if you're within that range, this
resistance, this number, this number of ohms is a constant. It stays the same no matter
what voltage or current you put through it. So, we define it by talking
about voltage and current, but it doesn't even really depend on that. If you really want to change
this ratio, this number that comes out here for
the resistance, you need to change something about
the resistor itself. Its size, what it's made out
of, its length, its shape. So let's figure out how to do
that if we take this resistor. Imagine taking this resistor,
bringing it into the shop. What is it gonna look like? Well, for simplicity's
sake, let's say we just have a perfectly cylindrical resistor. So, this is the wire going into one end. This is your resistor. It's a cylinder, let's say. And this is the wire going
out of the other end, so this is the blown up
version of this resistor. One thing you could
depend on is the length. So, the length of this
resistor could affect the resistance of this resistor. Another thing it could
depend on is the area of this front part here,
this cross sectional area. It's called the cross sectional
area, because that's the direction that the current's heading into. This current's heading into
that area there, like a tunnel, and it comes out over here. Now this is full, this isn't hollow. This is made up of some material. Maybe it's a metal or some
sort of carbon compound or a semiconductor, but it's
a solid material right here that the current flows
into and then flows out of. So, what would happen if we
made this resistor longer? Let's say we start changing
some of these variables, and we increase the
length of this resistor. Well, now this current's gotta flow through a longer resistor. It's gotta flow through this
resistor for more of this path. And it makes sense to me to
think that the resistance is going to increase. If I increase the length of this resistor, then the resistance is gonna go up. How about the area, this
cross sectional area? Let's say I increase this
area, I make it a wider, larger diameter cylinder. Well, it makes sense to me to
think that now that current's got more room to flow
through, essentially. There's a bigger area through
which this current can flow. It's not as restricted. That means the resistance should go down. And if we try to put this
in a mathematical formula. What that means is, if
I increase the length, R should depend on the length. It turns out it's directly
proportional to the length. If I double the length of a resistor, I get twice the resistance. But area, if I increase the area, I should get less resistance. 'Cause there's more room to flow. So, over here in this formula, my area has go to go on the bottom. The resistance of the resistor
is inversely proportional to this cross sectional area. But there's one more
quantity that this resistance could depend on, and
that's what the material is actually made of. So, the geometry determines the resistance as well as what the material is made of. Some materials just naturally offer more resistance than others. Metals offer very little resistance, and non-metals typically
offer more resistance. So, we need a way to quantify
the natural resistance a material offers, and that's
called the resistivity. And it's represented with
the greek letter rho. And the bigger the
resistivity of a material, the more it naturally resists the flow of current through it. To give you an idea of the numbers here, the resistivity of copper. Well, that's a metal,
it's going to be small. It's 1.68 times 10 to the negative eighth. We'll talk more about
the units in a second. But the resistivity of
something like rubber, an insulator, is huge. It can be on the order of 10 to the 13th. So, there's a huge
range of possible values as you go from metal
conductor to semiconductor to insulator, huge range
of possible resistivities. And this is the last key here. This is the last element in this equation. The resistivity goes right here. So, the bigger the resistivity,
the bigger the resistance. That makes sense. And then it also depends
on these geometrical factors of length and area. So, here's a formula to
determine what factors actually change the resistance of a resistor. The resistivity, the length, and the area. So, what are the units of resistivity? Well, I can rearrange this
formula, and I can get that the resistivity equals the resistance times the area of the resistor divided by the length. And so that gives me units of ohms times meters squared, 'cause that's area, divided by meters. And so I end up getting ohms. One of these meters cancels out. Ohms times meters. Those are the units of
these resistivities. Ohm meters. But how do you remember this formula? It's kind of complicated. I mean, is area on top,
is length on bottom? Hopefully you can remember why those factors affected it. But sometimes students have a hard time remembering this formula. One of my previous students
from a few years ago figured out a way to remember it. He thought this looked like "Replay". So, this R is like R, and the equal sign kind
of looks like an E. And the rho kinda looks like a P. And the L looks like an L,
and the A looks like an A. And it kinda looks like "Replay". There's a missing Y here,
but every time I think of this formula, I think of
it as the "Replay formula". 'Cause my former student Mike
figured out this mnemonic. And it's handy, I like
it, so thank you, Mike. And since we're talking about resistivity, it makes sense for us to
talk about conductivity. Electrical conductivity. Now the resistivity gives
you an idea of how much something naturally resists current. And the conductivity tells
you how much something naturally allows current. So, they're inversely proportional. And if you're thinking it
might be this easy, it is. The resistivity is just equal to one over the electrical conductivity. And the symbol we use for
electrical conductivity is sigma. So, this Greek letter sigma is
the electrical conductivity. And rho, the resistivity,
is just one over sigma, the electrical conductivity. And vice versa, sigma is gonna equal one over the resistivity,
because if something's a great resistor, it's a bad conductor. And if something's a great conductor, it's a bad resistor. So, these things are
inversely proportional. They're like two peas in a pod. If you know one of these,
you know the other. All right if this all seems a
little bit too abstract still, there's a nice analogy
you can make to water. We saw that a resistor
depended on a few things, like the resistivity. The bigger the resistivity,
the bigger the resistance. And we saw that the bigger
the length of the resistor, the larger the resistance. And if you divide by the
area of the resistor, it shows that the resistance
is inversely proportional to the area of the resistor. So, let's make an analogy to water. Let's say you have, instead of electrons, flowing through a wire. Instead of the wire, let's
say you had a tube, a pipe that water could flow through. So, instead of electrons, you've got water flowing through a pipe. Different pipes are gonna
offer different amounts of resistance to the water
flowing through that pipe. What would affect it? Well, imagine you had a
constriction in this pipe. If this pipe got
constricted, it'd be harder for the water to flow. You'd find that it resists
the flow of water more because of this constriction. And what would it depend on? Well, the smaller this
area of the constriction, the larger the resistance. And that agrees with what we have up here. If you have a really small
area, you're dividing by a small number, and when you
divide by a small number, you get a big number. That'd be a big resistance. So, that makes sense. Also the length, if
you increase the length of this constriction, the water will have a harder time flowing. There's manuals for plumbers,
and you can look it up. There's a key to determine if
your pipe is a certain length, you're gonna need more pressure over here. So, the smaller the constriction
in terms of its area, and the longer it is, the more
pressure you need back here. The pressure is like the
source of the battery. So instead of a battery
providing the voltage to this circuit, you'd have
something offering pressure to get the water flowing. And just like a battery, what
matters is the difference in electric potential. What matters for the pressure
here is the change in pressure between one point in the system and another point in the system. So that makes sense. A longer constriction
means more resistance. A smaller area means more resistance. What would this resistivity
be analogous to? Well, it would be kind of like
what the pipe is made out of. If this pipe has a rough inner surface, the water wouldn't flow as smoothly. You would get a greater
resistance regardless of how long it is or what the area is. Just the natural built-in
affect of the pipe itself is what the resistivity would depend on, just like up here. The resistivity depends on what
the material is made out of. The resistivity of this pipe
depends on what this pipe is made out of, at least the inner wall. So hopefully this analogy
makes this formula seem a little more intuitive. But just in case, let's do an example. Let's get rid of all this. And let's say you got this question. "How much resistance would be offered by "12 meters of copper wire with a diameter "of 0.01 meters?" If copper has a resistivity of 1.68 times 10 to the negative 8th. Now, what units does resistivity have? Turns out resistivity
has units of ohm meters. So, ohms times meters. Well, let's try this out. We've gotta use our formula. Remember "Replay", R equals rho, L over A. The resistivity we have right here. 1.69 times 10 to the negative 8th. Notice how small this is. This is hardly anything at all. Copper's a great conductor. It's a terrible resistor. It let's electrons flow
through it like a charm. All right, so the length,
that's pretty easy. The length is 12 meters. Notice, we're asking,
what's the resistance of the wire itself? Now there's not really a
quote-unquote resistor in here. But every piece of wire's
gonna offer some resistance. And this formula applies just
as well to a piece of wire as it does to a resistor. So, the length of the wire's 12 meters, and the diameter is 0.01. What do we do with that? Well, we need the area. Remember the cross sectional area. And the area of a circle is pi r squared, so the area down here is gonna be pi times not 0.01 squared. That's the diameter. We need the radius, we
need to take half of this. So 0.005 meters squared. And if you calculate all
this, you get a resistance of 0.0026 ohms. Hardly anything, but
there is some resistance. And if this is going
to have an affect on a very delicate experiment, you've gotta take that into account. If you get this really
long, the longer it is, the more resistance is has, that could affect your system. But typically, it doesn't matter too much. The copper wire, electron's
flow through that like water, like it's not even there, because the resistance is so small.