Is 'expanse' an acceptable synonym for 'surface'?
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A surface is something that can be mapped to a flat plane, like the surface of the Earth can be viewed on a paper map.
An 'expanse' is not limited to only two dimensions. The 'expanse of the Sahara desert' is usually considered as a two-dimensional surface, but the 'expanse of space' is at least three dimensions and probably many more. The 'expanse of the Pacific ocean' can refer to the surface area only, or it can include all the volume of water that extends downward from the surface into the deepest trenches.
Surface has many (related) meanings. Expanse is synonymous to area, so it is also synonymous to surface when the latter is used in the meaning of surface area. Overall, I'd say in most contexts, expanse is not an acceptable substitution for surface.