Thermal Expansion and Its Consequences

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A change in temperature may cause various changes in physical properties of an object due to the response of its particles. One of those changes is the volume of object. Typically, when an object is heated, its particles receive energy, increase the frequency and magnitude of their motion, and as a result, increase collisions and volume of object. Conversely, when an object is cooled, its particles decrease motion activities, decrease collisions, and the object shrinks. This tendency of matter is called thermal expansion.
Coefficient of expansion is thermal property of matter. The coefficient of linear expansion (α) is defined as “ratio of fractional change in length to the change in temperature” (Tipler, 666). This coefficient only applied for solids.
ΔL/L 1 dL α = lim =
ΔT→ 0 ΔT L dT
The coefficient of volume expansion (β) is defined as “ratio of fractional change in volume to the change in temperature, at constant pressure.” β = 3α
Commonly, gases and liquids have higher coefficient of volume expansion. Materials with higher coefficient of expansion subjects to larger change in length or volume, and as a result, more likely to crack during rapid heating or cooling processes. When two materials with great difference of coefficients of expansion combine, cracking or separation may occur at the binding surface due to different thermal expansion rates.
In industries and everyday life, thermal expansion has many important positive and negative consequences. One of the most important consequences of thermal expansion is in the construction of large structures, such as bridges, buildings, railway tracks, s...

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