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Understanding the negative thermal expansion in planar graphite–metal composites

Oddone, Valerio, Wimpory, Robert C., Reich, Stephanie
Journal of materials science 2019 v.54 no.2 pp. 1267-1274
graphene, isotropy, metals, models, neutron diffraction, temperature, thermal expansion
The addition of graphitic fibers and flakes as fillers is commonly used to control the thermal expansion of metals. Sintered metal matrix composites with a planar distribution of graphite flakes show a low or negative thermal expansion coefficient perpendicular to the orientation plane of the graphite (z-CTE). Since the metal matrix has a positive isotropic expansion and graphite has a high z-CTE, this effect cannot be explained by a simple model of stapled metal–graphite layers. Instead, a mechanical interaction between graphite and matrix must be considered. With neutron scattering measurements, we show that there is little or no strain of the graphite flakes caused by the matrix, which can be explained by the high modulus of graphite. Instead, we suggest that a macroscopic crumpling of the flakes is responsible for the low z-CTE of the composite. The crumpled flakes are thicker at low temperature and get stretched and flattened by the expanding matrix at high temperature, explaining the reduction in the thermal expansion across the orientation plane.