One day you’re trying to open a pickle jar, but the lid is super tight and you just can’t do it. You try using a rubber grip, but that doesn’t work. You try hitting the jar lid on the counter to break the seal, but nothing happens. Finally, you try your grandma’s favorite trick: you run the metal jar lid under hot water to heat it up. The jar opens easily. But why? The answer is thermal expansion.
Thermal expansion occurs when an object expands and becomes larger due to a change in the object’s temperature. To understand how this happens, we need to think about what temperature actually is. Temperature is the average kinetic (or movement) energy of the molecules in a substance. A higher temperature means that the molecules are moving faster on average. If you heat up a material, the molecules move faster and, as a result, they take up more space – they tend to move into areas that were previously empty. This causes the size of the object to increase.
So when you heat up the jar lid, the same thing happens – the jar lid expands. So does the glass, but metals expand more than glass. The gaps between the metal jar lid and the glass threads increase, so it becomes easier to open.