Resistivity is a property of materials that determines how well that material will conduct electricity. This property is closely related to resistance which is the property of a particular electrical component. Resistivity is also closely related to electrical conductivity:[1]

[math]\rho = \frac{1}{\sigma}[/math]

Where [math]\rho[/math] is the resistivity (in Ohm/m) and [math]{\sigma}[/math] is the conductivity (in m/Ohm)). To determine the resistance of a wire (which could be made of almost anything: copper, aluminum, this equation even works for wood!)

[math]R = \rho \frac{A}{l}= \frac{A}{\sigma l}[/math]

where [math]A[/math] is the area (in m2) and [math]l[/math] is the length (in m).

For more detailed information on resistivity please see hyperphysics. Hyperphysics also has a table of resistivities for different materials. Resistivity also depends on temperature, which is also explained on hyperphysics.

PhET: Resistance in a wire

The University of Colorado has graciously allowed us to use the following Phet simulation. Explore the simulation to see how resistance changes depending on geometry and resistivity:

  1. R. D. Knight, "Conductivity and resistivity" in Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach, 2nd ed. San Francisco, U.S.A.: Pearson Addison-Wesley, 2008, pp. 954-956

Authors and Editors

Bethel Afework, Allison Campbell, Kailyn Stenhouse, Jason Donev
Last updated: May 18, 2018
Get Citation