Difference between Conduction and Induction

Updated on April 25, 2017

Electricity is an integral part of our everyday lives. It is energy that can be created and transferred in two ways, which are through the processes of induction and conduction. This article seeks to explain the key differences between these two processes.

Definitions

Conduction
Extension cords are excellent conductors of electricity

Conduction is the introduction of electricity to a conductor to produce an electrical charge. As mentioned earlier, an electrical current or electrical charge produces a magnetic field around the conductor. This action makes the electrons in the conductor move faster as they follow the direction of the current. In conduction, electrical current is introduced to the conductor via contact with a source to allow the flow of electricity. Electrical current will flow to other conductors that come into contact with the already charged conductor.

For conduction to be possible, a material must be able to allow electricity to travel through it, which is called conductivity. The electrical wiring in homes and buildings is highly conductive to allow electricity to pass through its length into light bulbs, TV sets, and everything else powered by electricity.

Induction
A light bulb is lit up using an electromagnet and copper coil

Induction is the production of voltage (i.e. electrical current or electromotive force, also known as EMF) in an electrical conductor as it interacts with the magnetic field of another conductor. A conductor is any material that allows electrical currents to pass through it. It is the dynamic interaction of a conductor’s own magnetic field with that of the source of the electrical charge that creates the electrical current to flow. Any object that has an electrical charge has a magnetic field. When another conductor is placed near the source, the other conductor becomes electrically charged and creates its own magnetic field. A source that is not near a conductive material will not produce current, thus it has to be within the range of a conductor in order to produce an electrical current.

Electrical induction was discovered in the 1800s by Michael Faraday, a physicist, after being inspired by a demonstration by fellow physicist Hans Christian Oersted. During the demonstration, Oersted proved that a conductor produces a magnetic field when given an electrical charge. Faraday did the reverse by creating an electrical current by exposing a conductor to a magnetic field. He was given credit for the discovery in 1883. Today, his breakthrough discovery is used in many electrical applications such as motors, alternators, electrical transformers, and electric generators.

Conduction vs Induction

So what’s the difference between conduction and induction? While both of them are ways of creating a flow of electricity, they also differ in several key areas.

In induction, a material with a magnetic field is placed within range of a conductor, with their magnetic fields disrupting each other to produce the current. In conduction, however, an electric current itself would start the process. The source of the electric current should also be in contact with the conductor for the flow of the electricity to be possible. Also, since the current is directly introduced to the material of the conductor, all succeeding currents that will be introduced would be flowing in the same direction.

Comparison Chart

InductionConduction
Caused by interaction of the magnetic field from both source and conductorCaused by an electrical current
Flow is caused by the “waving” of the magnetic field thru the length of the conductorFlow is caused by the direct introduction of a current to the conductor
Needs no physical contact from source and conductorNeeds contact for flow to be possible

Video

Here’s a comprehensive explanation of induction and conduction.

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