April 20, 2024

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Thermal expansion is the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature, through heat transfer. Temperature is a monotonic function of the average molecular kinetic energy of a substance. When a substance is heated, the kinetic energy of its molecules increases. Thus, the molecules begin moving more and usually maintain a greater average separation. Materials which contract with increasing temperature are unusual; this effect is limited in size, and only occurs within limited temperature ranges (see examples below). The degree of expansion divided by the change in temperature is called the material’s coefficient of thermal expansion and generally varies with temperature.

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