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Surya Kant from DELHI PUBLIC SCHOOL, asked a question
Subject: Science , asked on 27/10/12

why is air a bad conductor of electricity eventhough it conducts electricity during lighting????

EXPERT ANSWER

Hansraj Rai , Meritnation Expert added an answer, on 30/10/12

Dear Student!!

In general, air is a poor conductor of electricity. Lightning only occurs when accumulation of charges becomes so high that air cannot resist the flow of charges.

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Sreelekshmy Vadhyar From Rajagiri Public School, added an answer, on 27/10/12
75 helpful votes in Science

Volts. Lots and lots of volts. Also, humid air conducts electricity better than dry air, and maybe the raindrops themselves could help. In any case, once a little current flows there is a path of ions which  improves the conductivity allowing yet more current to flow. 

Electricity can only pass through air if it is in the neighborhood of 50KV. That's 50,000 Volts . Lighning produces a voltage that is always above 50,000 Volt

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Warprince From Maharishi Vidya Mandir, added an answer, on 29/10/12
28 helpful votes in Science

Air allows only huge amounts of electricity to pass through it.Thus it is a semi-conductor of electricity as it does noy conduct small amounts.

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Shivani From Dav International School Kharghar, added an answer, on 27/10/12
561 helpful votes in Science

Air is not a conductor of electricity if it conducts electricity we cannot live. And if there is any ions present then only that can conducts electricity but air is a mixture of gases. So it is not a conductor.

Lightning is proof that air is a conductor, however it is not a 'good' conductor it is about average. Air conductivity changes with moisture (humidity)and temperature level. The higher the moisture in the air, the higher its conductivity. Yes it is the water in the air that conducts generally, but the question was not "is oxygen / nitrogen / methane / etc" a good conductor. Our "Air" or "Atmosphere" is made up of a great number of components. 

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