Are you an engineer who works with materials that expand upon contact with heat? Well, a new discovery might put you out of your misery soon. If you think about materials that expand when hot, a long list of vehicles, aircraft, roads and even electronics could be compiled. 

However, Oxford University scientists have been testing negative thermal expansion (NTE) materials. So, this would mean when a material comes into contact with heat, it contracts. The study into NTE materials has been touch-and-go for some years, however, the team of researchers at Oxford's Department of Chemistry say they have made a breakthrough. 

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Credit: New Electronics

With collaboration with Imperial College, the teams have developed a material that can be chemically altered to expand or contract in reaction to a predetermined temperature. The researchers are confident that their discovery will have positive effects if applied to electronics specifically. 

"The discovery of how to control thermal expansion in these materials is very exciting. Our understanding of the processes underlying the effect means that we can search for it in related materials in the perovskite family or in other classes of materials with wide applications," said Dr Arash Mostofi, one of the researchers in Imperial's Department of Materials and Physics said. 

The researchers say they are now able to manipulate the atoms vibrating in the materials by altering the concentration of strontium and calcium in perovskite. This could have long-lasting effects on the materials that engineers use to create things with. 

"This is hugely exciting because we now have a 'chemical recipe' for controlling the expansion and contraction of the material when heated. This should prove to have much wider applications," said Dr Mark Senn from Oxford's Department of Chemistry who was instrumental in the discovery. 

So, does thermal expansion play a part in what you engineer? How would negative thermal expansion work to your advantage? Let us know in the comments section. 

 

Source: PHYS

 

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