The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It should not be used for engineering design or relied upon as engineering advice.
Changes in temperature cause most materials to change size with materials generally getting larger with increases in temperatures. Although the change in size is often imperceptible, the change in size is proportional to the overall size of the object and can become significant for structures that are large in at least one direction. There are many design situations where thermal expansion needs to be considered in the design. One case is when materials with differing coefficients of thermal expansion are in close proximity over a broad range of temperatures, such as in an internal combustion engine. Another case is in roads and bridges where the long lengths involved lead to significant changes in dimension that need to be accounted for with expansion joints to prevent damage under extreme temperatures (see the bridge expansion joint in the image above). The EngineeringPaper.xyz sheet below shows how to calculate thermal expansion for various materials.
This thermal expansion calculator may also be opened in a separate tab.