Concrete is a composite material, meaning it is a combination of different materials in a mixture. We typically think of concrete as a building material as we most commonly use it for buildings, sidewalks, and other critical infrastructure.
Humans have used concrete for a long time now. The several materials involved in concrete mixture gives it a combination of properties and an ideal construction material.
With all of its uses, you might be asking, does concrete conduct electricity?
How Concrete Conducts Electricity
The short answer to the question “does concrete conduct electricity?” is yes, concrete does conduct electricity.
In general, concrete has an interconnected pore network. The number of pores within the concrete and the amount of moisture inside it give concrete conductive properties. These factors create the potential for concrete to conduct electricity.
When a current passes through concrete, the ions in its pores organize themselves to direct current.
The degree to which it can conduct electricity depends on several factors. Due to the several materials that make up concrete, its ability to conduct electricity can vary based on environmental conditions.
Some kinds of concrete will conduct electricity better than others. It can depend on the material poured into the mixture to create it and how wet or dry the concrete is when exposed to electricity.
Factors that Affect Electric Currents
Electric current forms when ions can pass through a material. If you can create a stable flow of ions, you can create an electrical current.
Concrete creates this flow of ions when subjected to electricity. Concrete also has capacitive properties, which means it can withhold electrical charge.
The electrical current passes through the network of pores that makes up concrete.
The most crucial factor determining how easily the current passes through concrete is how wet or dry the concrete is.
To understand the differences, you have to understand the concepts of electric conductivity and electric resistivity.
Electric conductivity refers to the ability for a material to have an electrical current pass through it.
A high electrical conductivity means it is easy for electricity to pass through the material, while a low conductivity indicates a material where electricity cannot easily pass through.
It is possible to measure electric conductivity in an object. However, you cannot do so with concrete. To determine how conductive your concrete is, you will first have to find its electric resistivity.
Electric resistivity is the measurement of how much a material will reduce the electric current running through it. In other words, how difficult it is for an electric current to pass through a material?
The geometric shape of a material does not affect its resistivity. You can use instruments to find the resistivity of a material like concrete, and inversely, you can also find its conductivity.
After you indicate the resistivity of a material, you can find its conductivity value. That’s because the properties of electric conductivity and resistivity are inverse.
Different Amounts of Conductivity and Resistance
All concrete is different. The environmental conditions and the concrete materials will influence how conductive or resistive concrete is for electrical current.
Wet concrete or concrete exposed to moisture will more easily conduct electricity and have less electric resistivity.
Houses or buildings usually make contact with damp soil, and the earth will affect how conductive any concrete in the construction is.
Also, steel bars and concrete make up larger buildings. Often builders use this combination to create solid structural integrity.
Concrete with steel inside of it is very conductive. The metallic properties of steel amplify concrete’s ability to create a stream of ions.
Conversely, drier concrete has higher electrical resistivity and will not conduct electricity very well. It is important to keep in mind that the aging of concrete will affect its conductivity too.
Both of these kinds of concrete contain less moisture, and so the resistivity is higher.
Why Concrete Conducting Electricity is Important
Concrete’s ability to conduct electricity is vital to know for several reasons. Since we use concrete in many fields, it’s important to understand why this particular property of concrete is both useful and dangerous.
The first thing to keep in mind is that anything conductive has the potential to electrocute you.
Concrete is all around us, and often, factors like the weather conditions in your area or the moisture in the soil touching the concrete affect its ability to conduct electricity.
Be mindful of open-ended wires or any exposed electrical current around you when you’re near concrete–especially if it has recently rained or if it’s particularly humid in your area.
If you touch a concrete surface exposed to this current, you can get electrocuted. The ability for this event to happen may depend on changing factors but be mindful in any case.
There have been recent developments in harnessing concrete’s ability to conduct electricity. A material known as conductive concrete is utilized now for roads and buildings.
People make this concrete with materials that conduct electricity more easily, like carbon fiber and graphite.
It has been useful on roads to clear out massive amounts of snow. Workers can now transfer heat more easily across conductive concrete because of the material used to make it.
The material is also safe for people to walk across and saves money on the salt required to remove snow on our roads.
Conductive concrete is easy to make, requiring no special tools for the process, and it is also a lighter weight than regular concrete.
The answer to the question “does concrete conduct electricity?” is that concrete indeed conducts electricity.
Its ability to produce electric current depends on how wet the concrete is and what kinds of materials are in the mixture. Concrete with steel bars will also have a higher electric conductivity rate.
It’s important to stay vigilant around wet concrete because of its ability to conduct electricity.
Today, we’re harnessing the power of concrete’s ability to conduct electricity through construction innovations like conductive concrete.