All conductors contain electrical charges, which will move when an electric potential difference (measured in volts) is applied across separate points on the material. This flow of charge (measured in amperes) is what is meant by electric current. In most materials, the direct current is proportional to the voltage (as determined by Ohm's law), provided the temperature remains constant and the material remains in the same shape and state.
Most familiar conductors are metallic. Copper is the most common material used for electrical wiring (see main article:Copper wire and cable). Silver is the best conductor, but it is expensive. Because gold does not corrode, it is used for high-quality surface-to-surface contacts. However, there are also many non-metallic conductors, including graphite, solutions of salts, and all plasmas. There are even conductive polymers. (See electrical conduction for more information on the physical mechanism for charge flow in materials).
All non-superconducting materials offer some resistance and warm up during electric currents. Proper design of an electrical conductor takes into account the temperature of the conductor as well as the value of electric current. The motion of charges creates an electromagnetic field around the conductor that exerts a mechanical radial squeezing force on the conductor. The current carrying capacity of a conductor is limited by its ability to dissipate heat. This effect is especially critical in printed circuits, where conductors are relatively small and close together, and inside an enclosure: the heat produced can melt the tracks.
Thermal and electrical conductivity often go together. For instance the sea of electrons causes most metals to act both as electrical and thermal conductors. However, some non-metallic materials are practical electrical conductors without being good thermal conductors.