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Summary of Mechanical Properties of Materials

o Stress = force/area σ =F/A

Units are Nm-2 or Pa

o Strain = extension/original length ε = ∆ l/l

Strain has no units (dimensionless)

o Young Modulus= stress/strain E= σ /ε

Units are Nm-2 or Pa

o Area of circular section A = π d2 / 4

Units are m

o Ceramic materials such as brick and concrete are strong in compression but weak in tension.

o The strength of a material is represented by its breaking stress or yield stress

o Breaking stress (or fracture stress or fracture strength) is the stress at which the material
o Yield stress (or yield strength) is the stress above which permanent deformation (plastic in the
case of metals) occurs.
o The compressive strength of a material is the stress at which it will yield (ie undergo
permanent deformation) in compression.
o The stiffness or rigidity of a material is represented by its Young modulus E.

o E is found from the initial gradient of a stress-strain graph (ie in the elastic region)

o Up to the elastic limit (or yield point) materials will return to their original relaxed state when a
mechanical stress is removed. In the case of metals the elastic region is linear. Beyond the
elastic limit permanent deformation and/or fracture occur.
o The toughness of a material is the energy needed to break the sample (per unit area of fracture
surface). An alternative measure is the energy used or work done to break it per unit volume
of material.
o Toughness is measured by an impact test (energy lost by a swinging hammer in breaking a
sample of the material, divided by the area of cross section of the sample). Alternatively it is
measured by the area under the stress-strain curve up to the point of fracture. This area
represents the work done per unit volume to break the sample.
o The hardness of a material is how difficult it is to indent or scratch. Indentation hardness is
related to the compressive strength of the material.
o Metals often have fairly high E values (50 – 400 GPa) and strength fairly high values (typically
several hundred MPa). They undergo significant plastic deformation. The area under their
stress-strain curves is large, so these materials are tough.

o Ceramic materials have high E values, often with high strength, but do not undergo permanent
deformation. The area under their stress-strain curves is small – they are brittle (opposite of
tough). Ceramics like brick and stone are stronger in compression than tension, and their
applications reflect this.
o Polymers tend to have low yield points – so are relatively weak. Thermoplastic polymers
show considerable strain to failure. The area under their stress-strain graphs is often moderate
so they are of moderate toughness.