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Although the crystalline, mechanical, thermal, and optical properties of solids are of great interest, it is the electrical properties that most clearly demarcate the various types of materials and which exhibit the greatest diversity of behavior. The single most important electrical characteristic of a solid is its electrical conductivity the ease with which electric currents flow through it. See conduction. Metals are highly conductive solids that offer little resistance to electric currents.
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Most solid nonmetals, on the other hand, are insulators solids whose conductivity is nearly zero ; they offer virtually infinite resistance to electric currents. A third class of solids possesses electrical conductivity that is neither very high nor very low; these solids are called semiconductors.
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A principal triumph of quantum mechanics in solid-state physics is the explanation of these extreme variations of electrical conductivity in terms of the atomic structure of the three types of solids. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.
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