# 7.1 Failure and strength of materials

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## Elasticity and plasticity

Materials are classified as plastic or elastic depending on how they respond to an applied force. It is important to note that plastic substances are not necessarily a type of plastic (polymer) they only behave like plastic. Think of them as being like plastic which you will be familiar with.

A rubber band is a material that has elasticity. It returns to its original shape after an applied force is removed, providing that the material is not stretched beyond its elastic limit.

Plasticine is an example of a material that is plastic. If you flatten a ball of plasticine, it will stay flat. A plastic material does not return to its original shape after an applied force is removed.

• Plastic materials deform easily and do not return to their original shape.

## Fracture, creep and fatigue

Some materials are neither plastic nor elastic. These substances will break or fracture when a large enough force is applied to them. The brittle glass we mentioned earlier is an example.

Creep occurs when a material deforms over a long period of time because of an applied force. An example of creep is the bending of a shelf over time when a heavy object is put on it. Creep may eventually lead to the material fracturing. The application of heat may lead to an increase in creep in a material.

Fatigue is similar to creep. The difference between the two is that fatigue results from the force being applied and then removed repeatedly over a period of time. With metals this results in failure because of metal fatigue.

• Fracture is an abrupt breaking of the material.
• Creep is a slow deformation process due to a continuous force over a long time.
• Fatigue is weakening of the material due to short forces acting many many times.

## Elasticity, plasticity, fracture and creep

1. List the similarities and differences between elastic and plastic deformation.
2. List the similarities and differences between creep and fracture as modes of failure in material.

## The properties of matter

The strength of a material is defined as the stress (the force per unit cross-sectional area) that it can withstand. Strength is measured in newtons per square metre ( $N·{m}^{-2}$ ).

Stiffness is a measure of how flexible a material is. In Science we measure the stiffness of a material by calculating its Young's Modulus. The Young's modulus is a ratio of how much it bends to the load applied to it. Stiffness is measure in newtons per metre ( $N·{m}^{-1}$ ).

Hardness of a material can be measured by determining what force will cause a permanent deformation in the material. Hardness can also be measured using a scale like Mohs hardness scale. On this scale, diamond is the hardest at 10 and talc is the softest at 1.

## Interesting fact

Remembering that the Mohs scale is the hardness scale and that the softest substance is talc will often come in handy for general knowledge quizes.

The toughness of a material is a measure of how it can resist breaking when it is stressed. It is scientifically defined as the amount of energy that a material can absorb before fracturing.

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