Thermal expansion, defined as the temperature dependence of volume under constant pressure, is a common phenomenon in nature and originates from anharmonic lattice dynamics. However, it has been poorly understood how thermal expansion can show anomalies such as colossal positive, zero, or negative thermal expansion (CPTE, ZTE, or NTE), especially in quantitative terms. Here we show that changes in configurational entropy due to metastable micro(scopic)states can lead to quantitative prediction of these anomalies. We integrate the Maxwell relation, statistic mechanics, and first-principles calculations to demonstrate that when the entropy is increased by pressure, NTE occurs such as in Invar alloy (Fe 3 Pt, for example), silicon, ice, and water, and when the entropy is decreased dramatically by pressure, CPTE is expected such as in anti-Invar cerium, ice and water. Our findings provide a theoretic framework to understand and predict a broad range of anomalies in nature in addition to thermal expansion, which may include gigantic electrocaloric and electromechanical responses, anomalously reduced thermal conductivity, and spin distributions.
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