Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have discovered an amazing material that does not expand or contract over an extremely wide temperature range, making it one of the most stable materials known. A team led by UNSW A/Prof Neeraj Sharma found that the zero thermal expansion material, made of scandium, aluminium, tungsten and oxygen, did not change in volume from 4 to 1400 Kelvin (-269 to 1126 °Celsius). Read more for a video and additional information.
What are some practical applications? Well, typically materials with zero expansion are utilized in high-precision mechanical instruments, control mechanisms, aerospace components and medical implants, or any environment in which stability at varying temperatures is critical. Since it’s relatively simple to synthesize the material, thanks to the plentiful availability of alumina and tungsten oxide, large-scale manufacture is a possibility.
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We were conducting experiments with these materials in association with our batteries-based research, for unrelated purposes, and fortuitously came across this singular property of this particular composition. Curiously, the experiments suggest these minute atomic displacements and adjustment appear to be undertaken cooperatively. Movements and rotations of atoms and radii are quite ordinary, but this correlated behavior was quite unexpected,” said UNSW A/Prof Neeraj Sharma, an ARC Future Fellow.