Matter & Energy


Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Conductors and Insulators

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Conductors are materials that allow an electric current to flow through them easily. Most metals are good conductors.

Substances that do not allow electric current to flow through them are called insulators, nonconductors, or dielectrics. Rubber, glass, and air are common insulators. Electricians wear rubber gloves so that electric current will not pass from electrical equipment to their bodies. However, if an object contains a sufficient amount of charge, the charge can arc, or jump, through an insulator to another object. For example, if you shuffle across a wool rug and then hold your finger very close to, but not in contact with, a metal doorknob or radiator, current will arc through the air from your finger to the doorknob or radiator, even though air is an insulator. In the dark, the passage of the current through the air is visible as a tiny spark.