Tensile Strength

Definition - What does Tensile Strength mean?

Tensile strength is the ability of a material to withstand a pulling (tensile) force. It is customarily measured in units of force per cross-sectional area. This is an important concept in engineering, especially in the fields of material science, mechanical engineering and structural engineering.

The ability to resist breaking under tensile stress is one of the most important and widely measured properties of materials used in structural applications. Tensile strength is important in the use of brittle materials more than ductile materials.

Corrosionpedia explains Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of a material is the maximum amount of tensile stress that it can take before failure, such as breaking or permanent deformation. Tensile strength specifies the point when a material goes from elastic to plastic deformation. It is expressed as the minimum tensile stress (force per unit area) needed to split the material apart.

For example, if a metal rod one square inch in cross section can withstand a pulling force of 1,000 pounds but breaks if more force is applied, the metal has a tensile strength of 1,000 pounds per square inch. The tensile strength for structural steel is 400 megapascals (MPa) and for carbon steel is 841MPa. Tensile strength is different for different densities of steel.

There are three types of tensile strength:

  • Yield strength - The stress a material can withstand without permanent deformation
  • Ultimate strength - The maximum stress a material can withstand
  • Breaking strength - The stress coordinate on the stress-strain curve at the point of rupture

Tensile strength is a limit state of tensile stress that leads to tensile failure in one of two manners:

  • Ductile failure - yield as the first stage of failure, some hardening in the second stage and breakage after a possible "neck" formation
  • Brittle failure - sudden breaking in two or more pieces at a low stress state

Tensile strength can be used in terms of either true stress or engineering stress.

Tensile strength testing for metal will determine how much a particular alloy will elongate before hitting ultimate tensile strength and how much load a particular piece of metal can accommodate before it loses structural integrity. Therefore, it is very important in material science. It is also vital for construction safety and personal safety, both during and after the building is completed.

Tensile strength, along with elastic modulus and corrosion resistance, is an important parameter of engineering materials that are used in structures and mechanical devices. It is specified for materials such as:

  • Alloys
  • Composite materials
  • Ceramics
  • Plastics
  • Wood
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