Electrical Resistivity

Last updated on 2023-02-16 2 mins. to read

Electrical resistivity, also known as specific electrical resistance or simply resistivity, is a property of a material that measures how strongly it opposes the flow of electrical current. It is the inverse of electrical conductivity, which measures a material's ability to conduct electrical current.

Definition of Electrical Resistivity

Electrical resistivity is defined as the resistance of a material per unit length and per unit area, measured in ohm-meters (Ω⋅m). It is denoted by the symbol ρ and is determined by the following formula:


R is the electrical resistance of the material in ohms
A is the cross-sectional area of the material in square meters
L is the length of the material in meters.

In other words, electrical resistivity measures how difficult it is for electrical current to flow through a material. Materials with high resistivity have low conductivity, and materials with low resistivity have high conductivity.

Factors Affecting Electrical Resistivity

Several factors affect the electrical resistivity of a material, including:

  • Temperature: In most materials, resistivity increases as temperature increases. This is because as temperature increases, atoms vibrate more vigorously, which leads to more collisions between electrons and atoms, making it more difficult for electrons to move through the material.
  • Composition: The chemical composition of a material affects its electrical resistivity. For example, materials with more free electrons, such as metals, have low resistivity, while materials with fewer free electrons, such as ceramics and polymers, have high resistivity.
  • Microstructure: The arrangement of atoms and molecules within a material affects its electrical resistivity. Materials with a stable, crystalline structure tend to have lower resistivity than those with a disordered, amorphous structure.

Applications of Electrical Resistivity

Electrical resistivity is an essential property in a wide range of applications, including:

  • Electrical wiring: Materials with low resistivities, such as copper and aluminium, are used for electrical wiring because they allow electrical current to flow easily and efficiently.
  • Heating elements: Materials with high resistivities, such as nichrome and tungsten, are used for heating elements in appliances such as toasters and hair dryers because they can generate heat without melting or degrading.
  • Sensors: Materials with varying resistivity in response to changes in temperature, pressure, or other stimuli, such as thermistors and strain gauges, are used as sensors in a wide range of applications.
  • Resistors: Electrical resistors are electronic components that are designed to provide a specific amount of resistance to electrical current and are used in a wide range of electronic circuits.


In summary, electrical resistivity is an important property that measures how strongly a material opposes the flow of electrical current. It is affected by temperature, composition, and microstructure factors and has critical applications in fields such as electrical wiring, heating elements, sensors, and resistors. Understanding electrical resistivity is essential for engineers and scientists working in various fields and is key to developing new materials and technologies.