The increase in length depends upon three things. First, as might be expected, it is proportional to the original length of the structure. For example, a steel bridge 100 meters long will expand 10 times as much as a steel rail 10 meters long when both are heated equally. Secondly, the increase in length is proportional (or practically so) to the increase in temperature which the structure undergoes. For example, if a particular specimen expands by 1 mm when its temperature is raised through 25°C, it will expand by 4 mm when its temperature is raised through 11°C. Thirdly, the increase in length depends on the material from which the structure is made.
As usual, when a quantity is proportional to a number of factors it is also proportional to the factors multiplied together (i.e., the product of the factors). Hence the increase in length of a specimen is proportional to the original length × the increase in temperature. To find the actual increase in length, however, the product is multiplied by a number, which depends on the material, called the coefficient of linear expansion. The increase in length then equals the original length × coefficient of linear expansion × increase in temperature. This equation can be written as:
increase in length = Lo × α × twhere Lo is the original length, α is the coefficient of linear expansion, and t is the increase in temperature.
With the aid of this equation it is easy to solve the bridge problem we posed earlier. The original length (Lo of the bridge is 100 m, the coefficient of linear expansion of steel is 0.000012 per °C, and the rise in temperature (t) is 27 - 2 = 25°C. The increase in length is therefore 100 × 0.000012 × 25 m = 0.03 m = 3 cm.
The same equation can be used to find the decrease in length of a solid when the temperature decreases. What will be the length of the bridge when the temperature drops to minus 13°C (a temperature decrease of 15°C)? The answer is 100 × 0.000012 × 15 = 0.018 m = 1.8 cm, and the length of the bridge at -13°C is 100 - 0.018 m = 99.982 m.
Related categories HEAT AND THERMODYNAMICS
PROPERTIES OF MATTER
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