Copper Vs. Silver Wire Conductivity

By J.T. Barett
Copper's high conductivity is used for power lines.

The vast majority of electrical wire is made of copper. Copper’s electrical conductivity is very high, though silver’s is higher. Silver’s cost keeps it out of most electronics equipment; however, it does see use in some high-end, demanding applications.

Conductivity

Electrical conductivity is the measure of how well electric current flows through a material. It’s measured in units of siemens per meter.

Copper Conductivity

The conductivity of annealed copper is 59 x 10^6 siemens/meter. The resistance of a 24-gauge copper wire 1,000 feet long at room temperature will be about 26 ohms.

Silver Conductivity

The conductivity of silver is about 7 percent higher than for copper, or 63 x 10^6 siemens/meter. A silver 24-gauge, 1,000-foot-long wire would measure about 24 ohms.

Copper Uses

Because its conductivity is the second highest of any metal and its cost is low, copper sees use in most wire, connectors, printed circuit foils and related electrical parts.

Silver Uses

Silver’s higher conductivity and cost make it a niche product. It’s used as wire and solder in specialty audio electronics.

About the Author

Chicago native J.T. Barett has a Bachelor of Science in physics from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."