How Temperature Affects Metals

How Temperature Affects Metals

There are 91 metals in the periodic table, each of which has its own specific properties. These properties, whether electrical, magnetic, or structural are all influenced by a variety of factors — a big one being temperature. Read on to learn three interesting ways temperature affects metal.

3 Ways Temperature Affects Metal

1. Thermal Expansion

When temperatures rise, metals experience a small increase in length, width, overall area, and volume — a phenomenon known as thermal expansion. Thermal expansion occurs due to an increase in atomic vibrations with the magnitude of the expansion depending on the specific metal. Thermal expansion is an important factor to consider when choosing the right metal for a project as it can ultimately influence how effective or ineffective the structure is. Take for example bathroom pipework, which can burst when water freezes during the colder months. To avoid this, it’s important manufacturers take into account thermal expansion.

2. Resistance

When electrons flow through the bulk of a metal, they bounce off other electrons as well as the boundaries of the metal — also known as resistance. This phenomenon is influenced by both hot and cold temperatures. An increase in temperature increases the kinetic energy in an electron, increasing its speed as a result, and ultimately leading to a great amount of scattering and total resistance. On the other hand, a decrease in temperature decreased the kinetic energy in an electron, slowing it down and reducing its resistance overall.

3. Magnetism

Certain metals like cobalt, iron, and nickel are spontaneously magnetic at room temperature. Known as ferromagnetic materials, these metals’ magnetization is reduced when heated and is eventually lost completely when the Curie (the temperature at which a metal loses its spontaneous magnetism) temperature is reached. Different metals have different Curie temperatures too — while nickel has a relatively low Curie point (losing its magnetism at 626 degrees Fahrenheit), cobalt remains magnetic until it reaches 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit.

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