Thermal expansion is usually defined as:
1. The use of thermal expansion, or contraction, of materials.
a. i.e. Fit a tight joint together by cooling the inner part to contract, heating the outer part to expand, putting the joint together, and returning to equilibrium.
2. If thermal expansion is being used, use multiple materials with different coefficients of thermal expansion.
a. i.e. The basic leaf-spring thermostat uses two metals with different coefficients of expansion. The metals are links so that it bends one way when warmer than normal and the opposite way when cooler.
An easy way to explain thermal expansion is to consider the problem of a tight jar lid. If you can’t undo a lid, you can always heat up the jar to loosen the lid. Similarly, many people use torches to loosen up tight bolts.
My airplane engine is another great example of Thermal Expansion. One of the biggest problems with Cessna aircraft-type engines, also known as combustion engines, is you can shock cool them. If you cut the power and descend to quickly, the engine is cooling very quickly outside while the piston inside is still hot. You end up shrinking the engine around the piston, and you can actually make the engine fail. Pilots have to be very careful upon descent in a piston airplane to avoid engine failure.
The engine in my plane actually uses a combination of water-cooled and air-cooled heads. Because water takes so much longer to undergo a drastic temperature change, you can’t shock cool the engine.
A less literal application of Thermal Expansion is mixing up team members in group projects. Paring someone who is “hot” in their career, with someone who’s not, will encourage creativity and productivity in the less outstanding employee.
How could you look through the lens of Thermal Expansion to improve your product or service?