Each solid expand on heating and convention on cooling. The thermal expansion of solids is due to basic structure whether atoms occupy mean position on a fixed distance from each other. In actual fact atoms are not stationary but vibrate about mean location or positions which changes along with temperature. The distance in between mean positions rises along with increasing temperature and reduces along with temperature. Such changes in the mean distance in between the atoms result in contraction or expansion. Coefficient of linear expansion is explained as the raise in length per till length per degree rise in temperature. For reduces in temperature similar property is regarded as -ive . The linear changes in three mutually perpendicular directions will constitute volume expansion coefficient. If the linear expansion coefficients in three orthogonal directions are equivalent then the solid is thermally isotropic. The thermal expansion is zero on absolute zero temperature and is usually related to exact heat and melting point of a substance.
This is interesting to notice that experiments express that total volume change on heating among absolute zero and melting point is same for each element. This implies that thermal expansion coefficient is low for high melting point solids. Most solids that are utilized for high temperature applications that are refractory materials have linearly varying thermal coefficients. The exception is silica as SiO2 and zirconia ZrO2 which due to polymorphic transformation implies irregular behaviour.
The coefficient of thermal expansion is significant consideration though designing structure to operate at high temperature. The limited deformations will reason forces to act upon the part and hence induce stresses. Further throughout moulding procedure proper care require to be exercised for volume's due consideration and linear changes after solidification hence dimensional accuracy and tolerances might be maintained. Apparently this consideration supposes greater significance in case of such materials that are not easy to machine. Ceramics and further refractory materials are illustrations.
Figure: Thermal Expansion of Refractory Oxides as Function of Temperature
The coefficient of plastics of expansion might be controlled by addition of filler material; usually increasing filler material would reduce the coefficient. Expansion in instance of reinforced plastics tends to arise in the direction of reinforcement. There are a lot of plastics utilized in conjunction along with metals of common employ and it might be noted that employ of fillers enable material engineer to control the coefficient such plastic and metal expand equally. Unequal expansion will initiate undesirable deformation and stresses.