Faculty Publications

Title

Thermal expansion of solids: A simple classical model

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book/Conference Title

European Journal of Physics

Volume

18

Issue

3

First Page

237

Last Page

240

Abstract

The usual textbook derivation of the thermal expansion of solids based on the Taylor expansion of the interatomic potential is re-examined. It is shown that the simple theory presented in textbooks not only fails at low temperatures, but that the seemingly reasonable high-temperature result is fortuitous. An alternative classical model is presented, which is based on calculating the time-averaged interatomic distance as a function of temperature. The model is applied to the case of solid argon, as an example, to show the excellent agreement with experiment. Since simple numerical computations form an integral part of the undergraduate physics curriculum, this model presents an attractive alternative to the current treatments in the elementary textbooks.

Original Publication Date

5-1-1997

DOI of published version

10.1088/0143-0807/18/3/019

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