Electrical Conductor: Definition, Examples, Characteristics

In this article we will look at a basic term in low-voltage electrical installations, namely the term “electrical conductor” or “conductor”. This term is constantly confused with the word “wire”, for example. But a wire is only one kind of conductor.

What Is an Electrical Conductor?

Electrical conductor: conductive part intended to carry a specified electric current [defined in the IEC 60050-195-2021]. In another part of the International Electrotechnical Vocabulary, IEC 60050-826, the term in question is defined similarly.

Note 1 – The term “conductor” is often used for an element the length of which is large with respect to the cross-sectional dimensions, e.g. conductors of a line or of a cable.

Note 2 – The English term “conductor” and the French term “conducteur” have also the meaning of “conducting medium”.

Note 3 – In French, the term “conducteur” is also used as an adjective corresponding to the English “conductive”.

The term “conductor” is used in regulatory and legal documentation to distinguish from the variety of conductive parts those that are originally designed to conduct electrical current in any electrical circuits of electrical installations or electrical equipment. In addition to the qualitative characteristic of the conductor, indicating its ability to conduct electric current, each conductor has a quantitative characteristic – the value of the electric current that it can conduct for a long time under normal conditions. The latter characteristic is called the continuous current-carrying capacity of a conductor (less commonly referred to as the rated current of a conductor).

Examples of Electrical Conductors

Conductors primarily include the conductors of wires and cables used for fixed wiring in the electrical installation of a building, the conductors of flexible wires and cables used to connect portable and mobile electrical equipment to fixed wiring, various busbars used in low voltage switchgear and bus ducts, and other conductive parts that perform the function of a conductor.

Cable core example conductor
The cable cores are an example of a conductor

Types of conductors in electrical installations of buildings.

Various types of conductors are used in electrical installations in buildings. To provide electrical equipment with electrical energy, AC circuits use:

To provide electrical equipment with electrical energy in DC electrical circuits, the following are used:

Protective conductors, including protective earthing conductors and protective bonding conductors, as well as PEN, PEM, and PEL conductors, are used in electrical installations of buildings to protect humans and animals from electric shock.

The earthed line conductors (LE) are used in single-phase 2-wire AC electrical systems, in three-phase 3-wire AC electrical systems without the neutral and in 2-wire DC electrical systems.

Under normal conditions, the line conductors, the neutral conductor and the mid-point conductor are energized. Therefore, they are live conductors.

PEN, PEM and PEL conductors are not considered to be live conductors. However, under normal conditions, PEN-, PEM- and PEL-conductors conduct electric currents in the same way as line, neutral and mid-point conductors. Therefore, the listed conductors are current-carrying conductors that are considered when specifying the total number of conductors in an electrical circuit, network or system. PE protective conductors are not designed to conduct electric currents under normal conditions. They are not specified in the total number of conductors.

In every installation a main earthing terminal shall be provided to connect the following to the earthing conductor:

Key Characteristics of Electrical Conductors

Electrical conductors are materials that allow an electric current to flow freely through them. The three key characteristics of electrical conductors are:

  1. They have a low resistance to electricity. This means that they don’t impede or block the flow of electric current.
  2. They are good at conducting heat. This helps to regulate the temperature of electronic devices and prevent them from overheating.
  3. They are malleable, which means they can be easily shaped into wires or other desired shapes.
  4. They must be able to withstand high temperatures. This is because electricalconductors are often used in high temperature environments such as power plants and factories.
  5. They must be durable. This is because electrical conductors are often used in applications where they need to withstand a lot of wear and tear.

These five characteristics make electrical conductors essential for a wide range of applications, from power lines and electrical wiring to computer chips and solar panels. With such a vital role, it’s important to choose the right type of conductor for your needs.

What Are Good Conductors of Electricity?

There are a variety of materials that can be used as good conductors of electricity. Some of the most common include copper, aluminum, and silver. These materials are often used in electrical wiring and other applications where electrical current needs to be conducted efficiently. Other materials that can be used as good conductors include gold and platinum. However, these materials are much more expensive than the others on this list and are not typically used in electrical applications.


Which of the Following Are Good Conductors under Normal Conditions? A) Plastic, B) A penny, C) Gold, D) Air, E) Water, F) Ceramic.

The correct answers are: B) a penny, C) gold and E) water.

What Are the 3 Types of Conductors?

There are three types of conductors: metals, semiconductors, and insulators. Metals are the best conductors because they have a large number of free electrons that can move easily through the metal. Semiconductors are materials that have a smaller number of free electrons than metals, but more than insulators. They are used in electronic devices such as transistors and diodes. Insulators are materials that do not allow electricity to flow freely through them. This is why rubber and plastic are often used to insulate electrical wires.


  • IEC 60050-195-2021
  • BS7671