Electric insulator

Electric insulator is a material that blocks the flow of electric current across it. Insulators are to be distinguished from electrolytes, which are electronic insulators but ionic conductors.

Electric insulator              Electric insulator

Electric insulator is used to insulate electric conductors from one another and to confine electric currents to specified pathways, as in the insulation of wires, electric switchgear, and electronic components. They provide an electrical, mechanical, and heat-dissipation function. The electrical function of an electric insulator is characterized by its resistivity, its dielectric strength (breakdown voltage), and its dielectric constant (relative permittivity). Insulators can be solid, liquid, or gaseous.

Electric insulator used in the electrical industry for insulation, capacitors, or encapsulation may be exposed to large voltage gradients that it must withstand for the operating life of the system. Failure occurs if an electric short-circuit develops across the material. Such a failure is called dielectric breakdown. The breakdown voltage gradient, expressed in kilovolts per millimeter, is a measure of the dielectric strength. Dielectric breakdown of a solid is destructive; liquids and gases are self-healing.

An electric insulator is also known as a dielectric. The dielectric constant k is defined as the ratio of the capacitance of a flat-plate condenser, or capacitor, with a dielectric between the plates to that with a vacuum between the plates; this ratio is also the relative permittivity of the dielectric.

The dielectric constant is a measure of the ability of the electric insulator to increase the stored charge on the plates of the condenser as a result of the displacement of charged species within the electric insulator. See also Capacitance; Capacitor; Dielectric materials; Permittivity.

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