I/V Graph Of Metallic Conductor

Electrical Conductivity in Metals

Metals are known for their ability to conduct electricity. This electrical conductivity is due to the presence of free electrons within the metallic lattice. In a metal, atoms are arranged in a closely packed lattice structure, and the outermost electrons of these atoms are not bound to any specific atom. Instead, they are free to move throughout the metal, forming what is known as an “electron sea.” This mobility of electrons is what facilitates the conduction of electric current through a metallic conductor.

The I-V Graph of Metallic Conductors

iv graph for metallic conductors

The relationship between the current (I) flowing through a conductor and the voltage (V) applied across it can be graphically represented by the I-V graph. For metallic conductors at constant temperature, this graph is a straight line that passes through the origin. This linear relationship indicates that the current is directly proportional to the applied voltage, which is a characteristic behavior of Ohmic conductors.

Ohm’s Law and Ohmic Conductors

Ohm’s Law is a fundamental principle in the field of electricity and magnetism, stating that the current flowing through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points. This law is mathematically expressed as (I = \frac{V}{R}), where (I) is the current, (V) is the voltage, and (R) is the resistance of the conductor. Conductors that obey Ohm’s Law, such as most metals under constant temperature conditions, are referred to as Ohmic conductors. Their resistance ((R)) is constant over a wide range of applied voltages, assuming the temperature remains unchanged.

Resistance in Metals and the Role of Temperature

The concept of resistance in metals is intrinsically linked to the interaction between the free electrons and the ions that make up the metal’s lattice structure. As electrons move through the lattice, they occasionally collide with the lattice ions. Each collision scatters the electrons, reducing their overall drift velocity, which is the average velocity of electrons moving in the direction of the electric field. This scattering effect is what gives rise to electrical resistance.

At constant temperature, the average kinetic energy of the lattice ions, and hence their vibrational magnitude, remains constant. Since the frequency and severity of electron-lattice ion collisions are dependent on the ions’ vibrational energy, keeping the temperature constant means the resistance of the metal also remains constant. Any change in temperature would alter the vibrational energy of the lattice ions, thereby affecting the resistance. For example, increasing the temperature typically increases the resistance of metallic conductors because it enhances the lattice ions’ vibrations, leading to more frequent electron collisions.


Understanding the behavior of metallic conductors at constant temperature involves a comprehensive grasp of electrical conductivity, the significance of the I-V graph, the principles of Ohm’s Law, and the factors affecting resistance in metals. By maintaining the temperature constant, the resistance of a metallic conductor remains unchanged, ensuring stable electrical performance. This foundational knowledge is crucial for various applications in electronics, electrical engineering, and material science, where precise control over electrical properties is paramount.

Worked Examples

Example 1: Understanding the I-V Relationship in Ohmic Conductors

An experimenter sets up a circuit with a metallic conductor and varies the voltage applied across it while keeping the temperature constant. Initially, a voltage of 2 volts is applied, and a current of 0.5 amperes is observed. Later, the voltage is increased to 4 volts. Based on the I-V relationship for metallic conductors at constant temperature, predict the current that will flow through the conductor.


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Given that the initial conditions are 2 volts and 0.5 amperes, we know the conductor obeys Ohm’s Law, $I = \frac{V}{R}$, where $I$ is the current, $V$ is the voltage, and $R$ is the resistance. The resistance can be calculated as $R = \frac{V}{I} = \frac{2V}{0.5A} = 4 \Omega$.

When the voltage is increased to 4 volts, and assuming the temperature (and thus the resistance) remains constant, the current can be recalculated using Ohm’s Law: $I = \frac{V}{R} = \frac{4V}{4\Omega} = 1A$.

Therefore, when the voltage is increased to 4 volts, the current through the conductor will be 1 ampere.

Example 2: Temperature’s Impact on Resistance

A physics student observes that a metallic wire has a resistance of 10 ohms at room temperature (20°C). The student then heats the wire to 100°C and notices an increase in resistance. Assuming the wire behaves as a typical metallic conductor and no physical changes (like melting) occur, explain qualitatively why the resistance increased with temperature.

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As the temperature of the metallic wire increases from 20°C to 100°C, the kinetic energy of the lattice ions in the metal also increases. This heightened energy causes the ions to vibrate more vigorously. Since the resistance in a metal is largely due to the collisions between free-moving electrons and the vibrating lattice ions, an increase in the ions’ vibrational energy leads to a higher frequency of collisions. More collisions mean that electrons have a harder time passing through the wire, effectively increasing the wire’s resistance. This example illustrates the direct relationship between temperature and resistance in metallic conductors, where resistance increases with temperature due to enhanced vibrational activity of the lattice ions.

Example 3: Analyzing Non-linear I-V Graphs

During a laboratory experiment, a student measures the current through a metallic conductor at constant temperature for various voltages and plots an I-V graph. Instead of a straight line passing through the origin, the student observes a curve. What could be a possible explanation for this observation? Discuss how this relates to the expected behavior of metallic conductors.

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If the student observes a curved I-V graph for a metallic conductor at a constant temperature, rather than the expected straight line, this suggests that the conductor is not behaving as an ideal Ohm’s conductor over the range of applied voltages. A few possible explanations for this observation could include:

  1. Temperature Variation: Even though the experiment aims to keep the temperature constant, if the applied voltage significantly increases the conductor’s temperature, its resistance may change, deviating from the ideal Ohmic behavior. Increased current can lead to increased power dissipation as heat ((P = IV)), which raises the temperature of the conductor and changes its resistance.
  2. Material Properties: The conductor might have material properties that cause it to exhibit non-Ohmic behavior under certain conditions, such as semiconductor materials or materials with impurities that affect electron flow at different voltage levels.
  3. Measurement Error or Equipment Limitations: The experimental setup or measurement tools might be introducing errors or have limitations that cause the observed curve. For instance, the voltmeter or ammeter might not be accurately calibrated, affecting the readings.

This scenario emphasizes the importance of understanding the idealized models (like Ohm’s Law for metallic conductors) and recognizing that real-world conditions or material characteristics can lead to deviations from these models.

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