What is a better conductor of electricity: Copper or Silver? Which is better for electronics?

Kannon Y November 29, 2013

Hello guys, simple question here:

What’s a better conductor of electricity, silver or copper? And which of the two is better suited for electronics work?

Is magnetization a potential issue with silver or copper? I know that if you run current through certain metals, they can possible become magnetized. Thanks guys!

  1. Guy M
    December 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    As far as the magnetic properties of silver or copper, it is too slight to worry about for most applications. The purity of the metal is what makes the difference. Sterling silver, versus .9999 pure silver, will have the possibility of magnetism more so than the four-9s. It's the impurities that may have ferrous components that contribute to the magnetism.

    Of course, .9999 silver is about 30% more expensive than Sterling, which is .925 pure. Same deal with gold.

    If you make this thing, there better be an article. It would be pure art!

    • Kannon Y
      December 7, 2013 at 12:53 am

      I used a grafoil (graphite foil) as an intermediary between a heat sink and a CPU. It's actually a better thermal conductor than copper. The problem is that it conducts electricity. I'm looking for something that will conduct heat but not electricity. This technology thing is hard.

    • Guy M
      December 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      That's a tough one. Any metal is a great conductor of heat, unfortunately that very same property makes it a great conductor of electricity.
      Just a thought, what about glass? It conducts heat quite nicely but is an excellent insulator. Or something ceramic. I haven't done any research on this, it's just off the top of my head.

  2. Oron J
    November 30, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I know you didn't ask, Kannon, but Gold is a better conductor than either silver or copper... That's why good quality pins/connectors are often gold plated. In terms of electronics, it's essentially a question of economics. Gold would be best (it also doesn't oxydise), silver and copper next in line, and most other metals further down the scale (there are even some towns in the UK that have aluminium phone lines, the cheapskates!). Most of the time however, the difference in performance is minimal, particularly in digital applications.

  3. Alan W
    November 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Here is a link to a chart that shows thermal conductivity of common materials:


    as you will see, silver is the highest.

  4. Alan W
    November 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Silver would make a great heatsink, if you could afford it. Here are the stats:

    Silver - 418,000 kW/mK
    Copper - 393,700 kW/mK
    Aluminum - 216,500 kW/mK
    Nickel - 90,600 kW/mK

    as you can see, aluminium and nickel are not very good at all.

    • Kannon Y
      November 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks Alan, that's pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I'm looking for the "best answer" button - unfortunately, I can't find it. We're going to need to fix this.

  5. Hovsep A
    November 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    nanoparticles of silver and copper (the atoms of which are intrinsically non-magnetic) with a size of 2 nm have also been shown to be magnetic at ambient temperature.

    • Kannon Y
      November 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks Hovsep, that's exactly one of the questions that I was wondering about. Thanks for the link!

  6. Muthu K
    November 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Both are good conductor but the conductivity of Silver is greater than Copper. So you you do not lose much current when you use silver. But Copper is next on the list. So you can use copper since it is cheaper then silver.

  7. Alan W
    November 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Sorry! I forgot the second half of the question.
    You cannot magnatise copper or silver.

  8. Alan W
    November 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Silver is the better conductor but it more expensive than copper.

    • Kannon Y
      November 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Thanks Alan, good answer. I'm wondering whether or not silver would make a good heat sink. I've been reading about why IO shields are designed the way they are - there's special pains taken to connect the shield to the various connectors, which run current. I think it's possibly to prevent magnetization.

    • Oron J
      November 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Kannon, silver also has better thermal conductivity than copper.

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