This was meant to be a sub question in the comments of my last question but I think it is big enough to have its own post.

I know that electrons move because of the potential difference across the wire.

But do the electrons jump from the valence shell of 1 atom to the valence shell of another atom or do they flow in a swarm without interacting with any atoms? Here I am talking about electron flow in a metallic conductor.

And what about insulators? Let's say we have an insulator in the middle of a conducting circuit. How will the it prevent electrons from going through?


It does not make sense to talk about how an electron moves in an atom. The standard orbitals, shown below, are amplitudes for the occurrence of the electron. For very high Rydberg atoms with the electron put in extremely high orbitals the wave packet can then localize and orbit around the nucleus. One has to apply a weak magnetic field to define the plane of this orbit.

enter image description here

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