MadSci Network: Engineering

Re: Difference between tensile strength property and stretch property?

Date: Tue Oct 11 08:38:06 2011
Posted By: Matthew Buynoski, Process Integration Engineer (retired)
Area of science: Engineering
ID: 1318260917.Eg

Hello, Ting...

   Both relate to the response of an object  to applied tensile (i.e. pulling it apart) force, but they are not 
the same.  

   Tensile strength usually means the applied force at which the material fails.

   Stretch is also a function of the material, and has to do with how much it elongates for a given force 

   Here's a practical example. Nylon can be made into various kinds of ropes.  Dynamic climbing ropes 
are made so that they stretch more, and have relatively lower breaking strength, than static rescue 
ropes.  In this case, both are made of the same material (nylon) but differ in methods of construction.

   "Stretch" consists of two kinds of process.  One is what is called elastic, in which the stretched 
material recovers from the stretching and is essentially unchanged (a metal coil spring is an example) 
and the second is plastic deformation, which leads to permanent change in the material (does not fully 
recover).  Plastic deformation eventually leads to failure, and happens by such means as slipping along 
grain boundaries, dislocations traveling through the mateiral (both in metals), molecules sliding past 
each other (plastics and polymers), and propagation of cracks initiated from imperfections (ceramics).

Many introductory  textbooks on materials science go into this in far greater detail, and the subject is a 
fascinating one.    Videos of dislocation motion, for example, are all over the web.  Here's one by 
Cambridge University:

and you can enter the keywords "dislocation" "motion" and "video" into a search engine to find many 

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