Featured in PASCO’s Advanced Physics Teacher Guide

Advanced Physics Teacher Guide


This manual features over 30 College Board curriculum and AP Physics exam inspired lab activities.

Thermal Expansion

Lab Summary

Use a rotary motion sensor and a temperature sensor to determine the coefficients of linear expansion for 3 different materials.


Students explore the concept of thermal expansion by:

  • Defining thermal expansion and measuring it accurately.
  • Calculating coefficients of linear expansion for 3 different materials.
  • Using the linear expansion equation to derive a similar equation for volumetric expansion.


Students gain experience conducting the following procedures:

  • Using a rotary motion sensor and thermal expansion apparatus to measure the small change in length of each pipe as it is heated by steam from a steam generator.
  • Measuring the temperature change of the pipe as it is heated using a small thermistor mounted to the pipe and a temperature sensor.
  • Calculating the coefficient of thermal expansion using the change in temperature and length for 3 metal pipes (copper, aluminum, and brass).

Sensors / Equipment Used:

PASPORT Rotary Motion Sensor


Put a new spin on many common experiments with this highly versatile sensor.

PASPORT Absolute Pressure/Temperature Sensor


Designed for ideal gas law allowing both absolute pressure and temperature measurement. For use with PASPORT Interfaces.

Computer-Based Thermal Expansion


The change in rod length is measured by a rotary motion sensor with a special adapter pin that turns when in contact with the expanding rod.

Steam Generator


Brings 3/4 of of a liter of water to boil in 10 minutes and provides continuous steam at up to 10 gram/min.

Materials Used:

Meter Stick 
Oven Mitts or Towels to protect hands
Tray (to catch condensed steam)

The Associated Bundle:

Advanced Physics Standard Sensor Bundle


This bundle contains the probeware needed to perform all 37 lab activities in the Advanced Physics lab manual.

Interface Required

This experiment may require software and an interface for data collection.