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Department of Mechanical Engineering



ME10001 Experimentation, engineering skills and applied engineering

1. Introduction

Understanding, measuring and using material properties is fundamental to mechanical engineering.

For example, knowing a materials strength is critical to ensure engineering components or structures
do not fail in-service - the consequences can be catastrophic and costly. Knowledge of the
materials properties allows for an appropriate safety factor to be included in the design and
specification of components.

Measurement of tensile properties is an important characterisation method that is used extensively

to determine elasticity, strength and ductility of materials. During the test a tensile load is gradually
applied, via a testing machine, to a standard test specimen and the extension (i.e. change in length)
recorded, until the material fails. By considering a materials elasticity, the maximum deflection of a
component under an applied load can be calculated with confidence.


To introduce the techniques used for mechanical testing of materials by measurements on two
classes of material, metal alloys and polymers, to determine:

1. Elastic Modulus (i.e. Youngs Modulus), E (GPa)

2. Yield Stress, y (MPa)
3. Tensile Strength, TS (MPa)
4. Elongation, f (% at failure)

2. Theory

Robert Hooke (1660) first proposed a linear relationship between an applied force (F) and the
resulting extension (L) in a material. In reality this is only valid under certain conditions but has
proven practical for most engineering purposes. Thomas Young (1807) extended Hookes Law,
stating that the constant of proportionality between elastic stress and elastic strain, is the modulus
of stiffness for a material. This has become known as Youngs Modulus, E (GPa) or the elastic
modulus or just the stiffness, Figure 1. Stress (N/mm2 or MPa) is given by force F (N) divided by
area A (mm2):

= (1)

Strain is given by change in length L (mm) divided by original length L0 (mm):

= (2)

The elastic modulus E is the ratio of stress and strain:

= (3)


Stiff materials will clearly experience only small strains when large stresses are applied.
Materials with a high modulus will be stiff and, conversely, a low modulus indicates flexibility.
However it is important to note that all stiff materials are not strong and all strong materials are not

Figure 1: Stress versus strain characteristic in the elastic region

The properties displayed during elastic deformation are dictated primarily by the atomic bonding of
the material. However, beyond this point the plastic (non-reversible) deformation of the material is
controlled by the materials microstructure and the nature of its atomic bonding. The yield strength
of a material y (MPa) is determined by the stress at which the onset of plastic behaviour occurs.
Yield may correspond to the maximum tensile strength of the material TS (MPa) if the material is
brittle. However, for many materials, such as metals and polymers some degree of plastic
deformation occurs (elongation) before the maximum tensile strength is reached and therefore the
materials display a degree of ductility, Figure 2.

Figure 2: Tensile stress-strain curve for a typical metal [1]


3. Experimental

Safety first!

When mechanical tests are performed on materials, precautions must be taken to confine flying
fragments when fracture occurs. Please use the Perspex cover provided to guard the moving heads
of the testing machines. Any moving equipment parts clearly present a mechanical hazard. All eye
injuries should be reported to the medical centre.

Materials and methods

Metals and alloys: normalised 0.1wt% carbon steel and aluminium alloy 2011-T3

The 25 kN Instron test machine available for measuring the mechanical properties of the steel and
aluminium specimens can be used:

(i) to take the sample to failure allowing characterisation of the complete stress-strain behaviour
(ii) with an extensometer attached to the specimen and loaded within the elastic range only. This
allows for the accurate determination of elastic modulus.

Two alloys: normalised 0.1wt% carbon steel and aluminium alloy 2011-T3 will be tested and the
composition and designation should be recorded (Table 1). The specimens provided have a nominal
diameter of 5 mm. The fracture specimens have a 25 mm gauge length (Figure 3). For the longer
elastic test specimens the gauge length of the extensometer is used, which is also 25 mm. However,
all dimensions are to be measured for each specimen before testing.

Figure 3: Typical test specimen (dumbbell type)

Polymers: nylon 6 and polymethlymethacrylate (PMMA, acrylic)

Samples of two polymers will be tested on a 5 kN Instron testing machine (Table 1). These
experiments will be used to demonstrate the differences in material properties by comparing a
strong, tough polymer with a hard, brittle polymer, Table 1. The testing machine will load the
specimens at a constant rate, and the load and extension data will be recorded.

Table 1: Materials and designations

Material Alloy / Designation
Steel (normalised) 0.1% Carbon 220M07
Aluminium alloy 2011-T3
Nylon 6 NH(CH2)6CO
Polymethylmethacrylate CH2C(CH3)COOCH3

From the load versus extension measurements recorded for each specimen, carry out the following:

(i) plot stress and strain as a graph


(ii) determine the yield and ultimate stress

(iii) measure the % elongation at failure (an indication of ductility)
(iv) From the extensometer data, determine the elastic modulus of the materials

In the report, attention and thought should be applied to the data presented. What is the source of
errors in the measurements? How does this limit the accuracy of the properties determined? Have
textbook values for comparable materials been consulted and how do these compare with the results
from the experiment carried out?

4. Discussion

Issues worth commenting on include:

- The degree of linearity occurring within the elastic region. Why is an extensometer or strain gauge
necessary for accurate determination of the elastic modulus of materials?
- Yield point phenomenon, instability and necking (reduction in cross-section).
- The differences observed in strengths and the variation in elastic modulus between different
materials tested. What are the origins and significance?
- Comment on the differences observed in stiffness, strength and ductility. Consider how these
properties may benefit (or hinder) the engineer.
- Why the two polymers have very different mechanical characteristics?
- Comparison of the determined values with those quoted in reference sources for equivalent
specification of materials and also with other common engineering materials.

5. Conclusions

Concisely state the main findings of the experiment in relation to the objectives.

6. Useful Texts

1. Engineering materials: An introduction to their properties and applications, M.F. Ashby & D.R.H.
Jones. Pergamon. (Library has online version or hard copies)
2. Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering, W.D.Callister. John Wiley & Sons. (This book
has an appendix containing properties for approximately one hundred common engineering