Stare at the Graph for Awhile

The graph above shows a portion of a potential energy curve for atomic bonds within a hypothetical material. The diagram somewhat resembles a Lennard-Jones potential diagram.

The inter-atomic separation is plotted on the horizontal axis, and the bond potential energy is plotted on the vertical axis. The equilibrium separation is also shown.

When this material is heated, does it expand or contract?

Note: Assume that the material is not heated enough to make the quasi-linear portion of the curve (on the right) relevant. As a bonus, what if we didn't impose this limitation?


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