156. Properties of Materials
Stiffness is the resistance of a material to being bent, whetherelastically or plastically. A steel sheet can be plastically(permanently) bent, a wooden longbow can be elastically bent, bothrequire a considerable force and both are stiff.
A ductile material is one which is relatively easy to stretch beyondthe elastic limit. This is plastic deformation which means that oncestretched, the material will remain that shape. If you take some BluTack© and carefully stretch it, it gets longer and thinner withoutbreaking and retains its shape when the load is removed.Copper is a ductile metal, although it does take a great deal of forceto stretch it. Its ductility is one reason why it can be used in wiringas it can be stretched into long thin wires without breaking.
Fig. 4 a ductile material can be stretched permanently withoutbreaking
Plastic deformation at the molecular level
In order for plastic deformation to occur without a substancebreaking, there must be a change in its structure at a molecular level
Fig 5 shows that a force can cause particles to slide over each other.No bonds are broken so the material does not break, but it can bepermanently restructured into a new shape. Materials which canplastically deform (like ductile or malleable materials) can do this.
Brittleness and Malleability
When a material reaches its elastic limit, it can plastically deform if the load is increased. A brittle material will snap soon after it reachesthis point. Often such materials are also not very elastic to beginwith and so are fairly inflexible.Glass is a common brittle material. Note that it is not the fact thatglass is inflexible that makes it brittle; that simply means it is inelastic.Glass is brittle because once it has been bent elastically, it cannotbe bent further in such a way that it permanently stays bent, itwould simply break.A substance that is malleable can be bent far beyond its elastic limitand will retain its new shape; they can be bent, rolled into sheets,pressed and hammered into shape. Where brittle materials wouldbreak, malleable ones retain their new shape without breaking.
Softness, Hardness and Toughness
a material is, the more difficult it is to cut into, grinddown, dent or mark in any way. Diamond, for example, is at the topof the hardness scale. Hard materials are often also brittle. Forexample glass is fairly inflexible, will snap easily but is very hard toscratch, cut or mark; as such it is brittle but hard. One of the onlyways to cut or mark glass is to use diamond which is even harder.
Fig. 5 layers of atoms sliding over each other resulting ina permanent change of shape
material can be very easily deformed (bent or misshapen), cutand marked. Blu Tack © is soft in that it takes very little force tochange its shape. It is also very easy to cut and mark.Note that ductile materials are not necessarily soft. Copper for example,is ductile as it can be permanently stretched without breaking, but thisrequires a great deal of force which means it is not soft.Soft materials are quite often also malleable, although malleablematerials are not necessarily soft. It can take a great deal of force topress or roll some metals which means they are not soft. Theproperties that make Blu Tack © soft also make it malleable, steel ismalleable but would not be described as a soft metal.A
material is a balance between soft and hard and as such isquite durable. Such materials can support loads without deformingeasily, but are not so hard as to be brittle. Therefore when loaded,tough materials will ‘give’ a little in order that they do not break, butnot so much that they completely bend and collapse. Also bybeing slightly flexible but hard, they can absorb impacts withoutshattering or deforming. A tough material must have a lot of work done on it before it breaks.
The strength of a material refers to how much force is required tobreak it; the stronger the material, the more force is needed. Thisamount of force per unit cross-sectional area is referred to as thebreaking stress.A material is broken when the atoms that make it up are separated.Therefore the strength of a material depends on the strength of thebonds between the atoms and the structure of the atoms.Diamond is so strong andhard thanks to the strongcrystal structure of thecarbon atoms.
Example 2: Explain why diamond is useful to use to make the tip of heavy duty cutters, like glass or concrete cutters, whereas graphitewould be useless, despite both being made from carbon. Answer
A diamond tipped blade will not go blunt quickly and so can beused to cut dense materials like concrete without wearing out.This is because it is very hard and therefore difficult to mark,wear down or break. It takes a great deal of force to break anyof the carbon atoms out of the strong crystal structure. In graphitethe carbon atoms are arranged differently. They are arranged mainly in layers and there are very weak bonds between thelayers. This means that it requires little force to break layers of graphite away from the main structure. This results in graphitebeing brittle and not very strong or hard. It can easily be marked or broken and so would wear down or break completely veryquickly if used as a cutting tool.
The carbon atoms in graphite arearranged in layers and the bondsbetween the layers are weak.Therefore graphite is not strongor hard as it can easily be brokenand marked.