# Electrical Resistance

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: *Dysprosium* to *Electrophoresis - Electrophoretic Theory*

The electrical resistance of a wire or circuit is a way of measuring the resistance to the flow of an electrical current. A good electrical conductor, such as a **copper** wire, will have a very low resistance. Good insulators, such as rubber or **glass** insulators, have a very high resistance. The resistance is measured in ohms, and is related to the current in the circuit and voltage across the circuit by **Ohm's law**. For a given voltage, a wire with a lower resistance will have a higher current.

The resistance of a given piece of wire depends of three factors: the length of the wire, the cross-sectional area of the wire, and the resistivity of the material composing the wire. To understand how this works, think of **water** flowing through a hose. The amount of water flowing through the hose is analogous to the current in the wire. Just as more water can pass through a **fat** fire hose than a skinny garden hose, a fat wire can carry more current than a skinny wire. For a wire, the larger the cross-sectional area, the lower the resistance; the smaller the cross-sectional area, the higher the resistance. Now consider the length. It is harder for water to flow through a very long hose simply because it has to travel farther. Analogously, it is harder for current to travel through a longer wire. A longer wire will have a greater resistance. The resistivity is a property of the material in the wire that depends on the chemical composition of the material but not on the amount of material or the shape (length, cross-sectional area) of the material. Copper has a low resistivity, but the resistance of a given copper wire depends on the length and area of that wire. Replacing a copper wire with a wire of the same length and area but a higher resistivity will produce a higher resistance. In the hose analogy, it is like filling the hose with **sand**. Less water will flow through the hose filled with sand than through an identical unobstructed hose. The sand in effect has a higher resistivity to water flow. The total resistance of a wire is then the resistivity of the material composing the wire times the length of the wire, divided by the cross-sectional area of the wire.

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