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Coefficient of Linear Expansion

Navin J. Ramjassingh

PHY 136


We will study the thermal expansion of a solid by measuring the coefficient of linear
expansion of a metal rod.
Theory and Discussion:

During heat transfer, the energy that is stored in the intermolecular bonds between
atoms changes. When the stored energy increases, so does the length of the
molecular bond. As a result, solids expand in response to heating and contract on
cooling. This response to temperature change is expressed as its coefficient of
thermal expansion. The linear thermal expansion coefficient relates the change in
temperature to the change in a material’s linear dimensions. It is the frational
change in the length of a bar per degree of temperature change.

The fractional change in length which is a natural quantity to use is the difference in
length of the micrometer measurements (initial minus the final) divided by the
length of the metal rod used. This is equivalent to the expansion coefficient
multiplied by the change in temperature of the metal rod used.

Similarly to the diagram above we proved the theory of the coefficient of thermal
linear expansion. The micrometer form was referred to as the “dial gauge.” As well
as the Thermometer was used along with the “thermistor” as shown in the diagram.
The metal used was Steel with a standard expansion coefficient of 1.2 x 10-3 .


After boiling the water for approximately twenty minutes, we observed a change in
temperature of the metal rod from 27.2°C to 100.6°C. With the change in
temperature factor and the change length factor (initial – final), which were
measured using a micrometer, we could then calculate the experimental coefficient
of thermal linear expansion (1/°C). By comparing that to the standard value we
came up with a percent error of 22.5%. But due to the comparison between the
change in temperature and change in length, we can clearly conclude that the
metal expanded by a difference of 0.41mm.