Most metals expand when heated and contract when cooled. A few metals, however, do the opposite, exhibiting what’s known as negative thermal expansion (NTE). A team of researchers led by Ignace Jarrige and Daniel Mazzone of Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US has now found that in one such metal, yttrium-doped samarium sulphide (SmS), NTE is linked to a quantum many-body phenomenon called the Kondo effect. The work could make it possible to develop alloys in which positive and negative expansion cancel each other out, producing a composite material with a net zero thermal expansion – a highly desirable trait for applications in aerospace and other areas of hi-tech manufacturing.

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