Beryllium and Its Coefficient of Thermal Expansion

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Beryllium is a hard gray metal that is naturally found in mineral rocks, coal, and volcanic dust. It can be used to make strong, lightweight alloys. It is also a good neutron moderator and scatterer of high energy neutrons, helping to prevent nuclear reactions and protect the integrity of structures within nuclear reactors. It also has a relatively low melting and boiling point, making it easy to handle and machine.

Like most solids, beryllium expands when it is heated. The amount of expansion is determined by its coefficient of thermal expansion, which is equal to the product of the linear and volumetric thermal expansion factors. A material’s coefficient of thermal expansion is related to its temperature, direction, and pressure. Most materials contract when they are cooled, however, and this is generally referred to as “thermal contraction.”

A simple example of linear thermal expansion is the change in length of a rod that is subjected to a changing temperature. The formula for the change in length is L displaystyle L / d T displaystyle d T, where L displaystyle L represents the initial length of the rod and d T displaystyle d T represents the change in temperature.

Copper beryllium is more resilient than conventional specialty coppers and has a higher elastic modulus. In some electrical devices such as electromechanical relays and switches, these properties allow designers to employ smaller section terminal beam sections than would be possible with other candidate alloys. This results in fewer pieces required to serve the same function, and ultimately reduces unit cost.