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Attention: Sheet 1 of

Faculty of Design and Creative Technology

Mechanical and Production Engineering
[Strength of Material 1]

[Strain Measurement Research

Project, ‘Photoelasticity’]

By: Student ID No.

I the undersigned declare that I am the author of this work, and that any
content from other sources has been acknowledged and fully cited.

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Photoelasticity is an experimental method to determine stress distribution

in a material. The method is mostly used in cases where mathematical
methods become quite cumbersome. Unlike the analytical methods of
stress determination, photoelasticity gives a fairly accurate picture of
stress distribution even around abrupt discontinuities in a material. The
method serves as an important tool for determining the critical stress
points in a material and is often used for determining stress concentration
factors in irregular geometries

The photoelastic phenomenan was first described by the scottish physicist

David Brewster. Photoelasticity developed at the beginning of the
twentieth century with the works of E.G.Coker and L.N.G Filon of
University of London.

At the same time lot of development was made in field. Great

improvements were achieved in the technique and the equipment was
simplified. With the improvement in technology the scope of
photoelasticity was also extended to three dimensional state of stress.
Many practical problems were solved using photoelasticity and it soon
became very popular. A number of photoelastic laboratories were then
setup in both educational institutions and industries.

With the advent of digital polariscope using LEDs, continuous monitoring

of structures under load became possible. This led to the development of
dynamic photoelasticity. Dynamic photoelasticity has contributed greatly
to the study of complex phenomena of fracture of materials.

Previous methods of experimental stress analysis, such as strain gauges,

have never been entirely satisfactory. The fact that all strain gauges have
a finite length permitted only mean values of strain to be obtained over
some interval. In regions of high stress-strain gradients, the gauge
readings are difficult to relate to the actual state of strain existing in the

The photoelastic technique however, provides in effect, a continuous

distribution of strain gauges of virtually zero gauge length. Using this
method, the maximum shear stress and the directions of the principal
stresses as well as their separate magnitudes can be determined directly

Although photoelasticity is an experimental method of stress analysis the

interpretations of the stress data obtained from the polariscope frequently
rest on propositions and relations developed in the theory of elasticity.

This theory concerns itself with basic relations between stresses and
strains, and the loads which produce them. The concept of strain is
derived from that of deformation, which in turn is associated with the
displacement of points.

The stress field at any point in a photoelastic specimen can be related to

its index of refraction through Maxwell’s stress optic laws. The light
emerging from the analyzer is subject to prior conditioning from the
polarizer and specimen, and can be described as follows: The intensity ‘I’
diminishes when either sine term goes to zero, and therefore we have two
possible fringe patterns of points where the light is extinguished.

Two fringe patterns are Isochromatic and Isoclinics. Isochromatic indicates

areas of constant stress magnitudes whereas isoclinic indicates principal
stress directions. In order to obtain the individual values of the stress, we
must investigate separation techniques. Separation techniques are
explained in method session in this report.
Birefringent analysis in liquid crystals

Liquid crystals are found to be birefringent, due to their anisotropic

nature. That is, they demonstrate double refraction (having two indices of
refraction). Light polarized parallel to the director has a different index of
refraction (that is to say it travels at a different velocity) than light
polarized perpendicular to the director. In the following diagram, the blue
lines represent the director field and the arrows show the polarization

Thus, when light enters a birefringent material, such as a nematic liquid

crystal sample, the process is modeled in terms of the light being broken
up into the fast (called the ordinary ray) and slow (called the
extraordinary ray) components. Because the two components travel at
different velocities, the waves get out of phase. When the rays are
recombined as they exit the birefringent material, the polarization state
has changed because of this phase difference.

Light traveling through a birefringent medium will

take one of two paths depending on its polarization.

The birefringence of a material is characterized by the difference, Dn, in

the indices of refraction for the ordinary and extraordinary rays. To be a
little more quantitative, since the index of refraction of a material is
defined as the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to that in the
material, we have for this case, ne = c/V| | and no = c/V^ for the velocities
of a wave travelling perpendicular to the director and polarized parallel
and perpendicular to the director, so that the maximum value for the
birefringence, Dn = ne – no. We won’t deal here with the general case of a
wave travelling in an arbitrary direction relative to the director in a liquid
crystal sample, except to note that Dn varies from zero to the maximum
value, depending on the direction of travel. The condition ne > no
describes a positive uniaxial material, so that nematic liquid crystals are
in this category. For typical nematic liquid crystals, no is approximately 1.5
and the maximum difference, Dn, may range between 0.05 and 0.5.

Polariscope is an optical instrument that utilizes the properties of
polarized light to analyze the stress distribution within a photoelastic
specimen. There are two types of polariscopes that are commonly used in
stress analysis work. Those are called “Plane polariscope and Circular

The Plane polariscope is the simplest optical system used in

photoelasticity; it consists of two linear polarizers (which transmit light
only along their axis of polarization) and a light source. The linear
polarizer nearest the light source is called the polarizer, while the second
linear polarizer is known as the analyzer. In the plane polariscope, the two
axes of polarization are always crossed. Thus, no light is transmitted
through the analyser.

Circular polariscope: This polariscope employs circularly polarized light

(light which sweeps a circular helical trace through time as it passes
through a wave plate, which basically has two perpendicular axes of
polarization). The photoelastic apparatus contains four optical elements
and a light source. Various configurations of the polarizer, 1st and 2nd
wave plates, and analyzer produce light and dark bands beyond the

(Circular Polariscope)


The method described here is based solely on the equations of equilibrium

(i.e., equilibrium of applied body forces, stresses, and shears), and as a
result is independent of the elastic constants of the photoelastic model
material. The equations of equilibrium when applied to the plane-stress
problem can integrated in approximate form using the following finite
difference expressions

The benefit of the above method is that is can be readily visualized

graphically, and applicable to arbitrary specimen geometry: Since the
above procedure implements finite difference techniques, it leads way to
the possibility of incorporating the shear difference method to automate
the entire separation of isochromatic and isoclinic fringe patterns.

The compatibility or continuity equations can be expressed in the form of

Laplace’s equation, the solution of which is known as a harmonic function.
There are many methods for modelling and solving using Laplace’s
function, including superposition of analytical harmonic functions, finite
element techniques, as well as physical analogy methods such as
electrical circuits modelled to suit the geometry in question.

Separation methods based on Hooke’s law make use of the fact that the
sum of principal stresses can be determined if the change in thickness of
the model, as a result of the applied loads, can be measured accurately at
the point of interest. Instruments developed for the measurements of
these changes (which are in the order of a few thousandths of a cm)
include lateral extensometers and interferometers.

Rather than having the light pass through the model at normal incidence,
the model can be rotated in the polariscope so that the light passes
through the model at some other angle, producing an oblique incidence
fringe pattern. This oblique incidence fringe pattern provides additional
data which can be employed to separate the principal stresses.


In early application of the photoelastic technique, models of such

materials as Bakelite, glass, cellulose and plastics exhibit the property of
double refraction or bi-refringence when strained. The stress distributions
were then revealed by shining polarized light directly through the model
and reflecting the incident light from a silvered or reflective interface, or
reviving the light as it travelled out the back surface of the specimen.
Attempts were then made to relate the stresses in the model to those
which be found in the actual specimen.

Recently, with the development of good bonding cements, it has now

become possible to fix the birefringent material directly to the test
specimen. By providing a shiney reflective interface between the
specimen and the plastic coating, the incident polarized light can be
reflected and the strain-induced birefringence may be observed. Since the
plastic follows the deformation of the test piece providing the bond is very
good, the strains in the plastic and those of the specimen(neglecting 3-D
effects) can be assumed identical. Hence by computing the strains in the
birefringent material through colours, the corresponding stresses in the
specimen can be calculated, taking into account if need be, a correction
factor for the reinforcing effect of the plastic coating.
Advantages and Disadvantages over other techniques


 Provides reliable full-field values of the difference between the principal

normal stresses in the plane of the model.
 Provides uniquely the value of the non-vanishing principal normal stress
along the perimeter of the model, where stresses are generally the
 Furnishes full-field values of the principal stress directions.
 Is adaptable to both static and dynamic investigations.
 Requires only a modest investment in equipment and materials for
ordinary work.
 Is fairly simple to use.


 Requires that a model of the actual part be made (unless photoelastic

coatings are used).
 Requires rather tedious calculations in order to separate the values of
principal stresses at a general interior point.
 Can require expensive equipment for precise analysis of large components
 Is very tedious and time-consuming for three-dimensional work.

 The introduction of photoelasticity that effects the stress and strain

analysis and its history such as the foundation by researchers.
 The theory related to photoelasticity and birefringence.
 Techniques in relation to photoelasticity which also relates to
separation methods that are shear difference method and methods
based on compatibility equations, Hooke’s law and oblique incident
 Applications of photoelasticity in early and recent application.
 Pros and Cons of photoelasticity compared to other techniques.



 Photoelasticity by Max Mark Frocht, Ph.D, published in 1948 by John Wiley
& Sons, inc. London CHAPMAN & HALL, Limited.
 The review of theory of Photoelasticity by R.C. Tennyson, from University
of Toronto, Institute of Aerophysics.