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See the factors that affect the resistance of a wire.


At GCSE we found out that there are three factors that affect the resistance of
a wire at constant temperature:
We discovered that

Resistance is proportional to length

Resistance is inversely proportional to cross-sectional-area

Resistance depends on the material the wire is made of

At A level we put these into an equation:

Click here for some practice questions

Here is an interactive Java application

is the resistivity of the material (see below)
R is the resistance of the wire (the ratio of the potential difference across its end
to the current that flows through it)
l is the length of the wire
A is the cross sectional area of the wire (if circular this will be r2 = d2/4)
Unit of resistivity
We can discover the unit for resistivity from this equation
The unit of resistance multiplied by the unit for CSA divided by the unit for length
That gives us Wm as the unit for resistivity.
What is resistivity?
The electrical resistivity, or specific resistance, is the resistance between the
opposite faces of a metre cube of a material.

We are used to thinking of resistance in wires. So, it would be the resistance of a

metre of wire with a cross sectional area of 1 m 2
Imagine a wire like that!

Wow! What dimensions, hardly a wire at all - more like a metal cylinder!
You would expect the resistivity of such a wire to be very small as the cross
sectional area is so great.... and the values for resistivity of metals are very small.
Nichrome is quoted to have a resistivity of 103 X 10-8 m in Kaye and Laby. All
resistivities of metals are usually quoted in terms of X 10 -8 m so that
comparisons between them can easily be made, but it has to be remembered that
Most numbers are probably reasonably accurate to 2 significant figures where
quoted but it is clear that you should expect values to depend upon your particular
Values are affected by impurities. Values given in different sources vary
considerably. Resistivity is temperature dependent.
The reciprocal of the electrical resistivity is the electrical conductivity .
Click here to go to an excellent flash graphic of the periodic table and resistivity of elements!

----------------------------------------------We can manipulate the equation to get R on the left

This equation is of the form Y=mx; it forms a straight line that goes through the origin.
(See graphs section).
is a constant for a particular material
R is the Y equivalent and what m is depends upon what you choose 'x' to be.
- If your variable 'x' is the length then m (the gradient) becomes /A as A is kept constant to give a fair
- If your variable 'x' is 1/A then m (the gradient) becomes l as l is kept constant to give a fair test

Resistivity - Practice Questions

Resistivity (these calculations are for those at AS level)

24 Taking the resistivity of platinoid as 3.3 x 10 -7 m, find the resistance of 7.0 m
of platinoid wire of average diameter 0.14 cm.
25 The resistance of the ohm is very approximately that of a column of mercury
1.06 m long and of uniform cross-section of one hundredth of a cm 2. Find the
resistivity of mercury.
26 What length of German silver wire, diameter 0.050 cm, is needed to make a
28 resistor, if the resistivity of German silver is 2.2 x 10 -7 m?
27 The maximum allowable resistance for an underwater cable is one hundredth
of an ohm per metre. If the resistivity of copper is 1.54 x 10 -8
m, find the least
diameter of a copper cable that could be used.
28 A block of carbon, 1.0 cm by 2.0 cm by 5.0 cm, has a resistance of 0.015
between its two smaller faces. What is the resistivity of carbon?
29 A uniform strip of eureka (resistivity 5-0 x 10 -7 m) has a resistance of
per metre and is 0.25 cm wide. What is its thickness?
30 A wire of uniform cross-section has a resistance of R . What would be the
resistance of a similar wire, made of the same material, but twice as long and of
twice the diameter?
31 A wire of uniform cross-section has a resistance of R . If it is drawn to three
times the length, but the volume remains constant, what will be its resistance?
32 A simple way to make a resistor of high resistance is to draw a line with a
graphite pencil across a sheet of insulating material. One such line has a
resistance of 10 M and is 80 cm long. If its width is 1.8 x 10-2 cm, what is its
average thickness? (Resistivity of graphite = 6.3 x l0 -5 m.)
24) 1.50
14cm 28) 6.0xl0-5 m
10-4 cm

25) 9.4 (9.434) x lO-7 m

29) 0.025 cm 30) 1/2 R

26) 25m
27) 031) 9R
32) 2.8 x