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As we studied the rotation of the bodies and then realised that the motion of a body depends on how mass is distributed within the body. We restricted ourselves to simpler situations of rigid bodies. A rigid body generally means a hard solid object having a definite shape and size.

But in reality, bodies can be stretched, compressed and bent. Even the appreciably rigid steel bar can be deformed when a sufficiently large external force is applied on it. This means that solid bodies are not perfectly rigid.

A solid has definite shape and size. In order to change (or deform) the shape or size of a body, a force is required. If you stretch a helical spring by gently pulling its ends, the length of the spring increases slightly. When you leave the ends of the spring, it regains its original size and shape.

The property of a body, by virtue of which it tends to regain its original size and shape when the applied force is removed, is known as elasticity and the deformation caused is known as elastic deformation.

However, if you apply force to a lump of putty or mud, they have no gross tendency to regain their previous shape, and they get permanently deformed. Such substances are called plastic and this property is called plasticity. Putty and mud are close to ideal plastics.

The elastic behaviour of materials plays an important role in engineering design. In this chapter, we shall study the elastic behaviour and mechanical properties of solids.


We know that in a solid, each atom or molecule is surrounded by neighbouring atoms or molecules. These are bonded together by interatomic or intermolecular forces and stay in a stable equilibrium position.

When a solid is deformed, the atoms or molecules are displaced from their equilibrium positions causing a change in the interatomic (or intermolecular) distances.

When the deforming force is removed, the interatomic forces tend to drive them back to their original positions. Thus the body regains its original shape and size.

The restoring mechanism can be visualised by taking a model of spring-ball system shown in the Fig. 9.1. Here the balls represent atoms and springs represent interatomic forces.

If you try to displace any ball from its equilibrium position, the spring system tries to restore the ball back to its original position. Thus elastic behaviour of solids can be explained in terms of microscopic nature of the solid.

Robert Hooke, an English physicist (1635 - 1703 A.D) performed experiments on springs and found that the elongation (change in the length) produced in a body is proportional to the applied force or load. In 1676, he presented his law of elasticity, now called Hooke’s law. We shall study about it in Section 9.4.

This law, like Boyle’s law, is one of the earliest quantitative relationships in science. It is very important to know the behaviour of the materials under various kinds of load from the context of engineering design.


When forces are applied on a body in such a manner that the body is still in static equilibrium, it is deformed to a small or large extent depending upon the nature of the material of the body and the magnitude of the deforming force.

The deformation may not be noticeable visually in many materials but it is there. When a body is subjected to a deforming force, a restoring force is developed in the body. This restoring force is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction to the applied force.

The restoring force per unit area is known as stress. If F is the force applied and A is the area of cross section of the body,

`color{green}("Magnitude of the stress" = F//A)`......(9.1)

The SI unit of stress is `N m^(–2)` or pascal (Pa) and its dimensional formula is [ML^(-1)T^(-2)]. change its dimensions when an external force acts on it. These are shown in Fig. 9.2. In Fig.9.2(a), a cylinder is stretched by two equal forces applied normal to its cross-sectional area.

The restoring force per unit area in this case is called tensile stress. If the cylinder is compressed under the action of applied forces, the restoring force per unit area is known as `"compressive stress."` Tensile or compressive stress can also be termed as longitudinal stress.

In both the cases, there is a change in the length of the cylinder. The change in the length `ΔL` to the original length L of the body (cylinder in this case) is known as longitudinal strain.

`color{red}("Longitudinal strain" = L/L)` ..(9.2)

However, if two equal and opposite deforming forces are applied parallel to the cross-sectional area of the cylinder, as shown in Fig. 9.2(b), there is relative displacement between the opposite faces of the cylinder.

The restoring force per unit area developed due to the applied tangential force is known as tangential or shearing stress.

As a result of applied tangential force, there is a relative displacement `Δx` between opposite faces of the cylinder as shown in the Fig. 9.2(b).
The strain so produced is known as shearing strain and it is defined as the ratio of relative displacement of the faces `Δx` to the length of the cylinder L.

`color{red}("Shearing strain" x/L = tan theta)`.........(9.3)

where `θ` is the angular displacement of the cylinder from the vertical (original position of the cylinder). Usually θ is very small, tan θ is nearly equal to angle `θ,` (if `θ = 10°,` for example, there is only 1% difference between θ and tan θ).

It can also be visualised, when a book is pressed with the hand and pushed horizontally, as shown in Fig. 9.2 (c).

Thus, shearing strain `= tan θ ≈ θ`...(9.4)

In Fig. 9.2 (d), a solid sphere placed in the fluid under high pressure is compressed uniformly on all sides. The force applied by the fluid acts in perpendicular direction at each point of the surface and the body is said to be under hydraulic compression.

This leads to decrease in its volume without any change of its geometrical shape.

The body develops internal restoring forces that are equal and opposite to the forces applied by the fluid (the body restores its original shape and size when taken out from the fluid).

The internal restoring force per unit area in this case is known as hydraulic stress and in magnitude is equal to the hydraulic pressure (applied force per unit area).

The strain produced by a hydraulic pressure is called volume strain and is defined as the ratio of change in volume (ΔV) to the original volume (V).

Volume strain `V/V`.........(9.5)

Since the strain is a ratio of change in dimension to the original dimension, it has no units or dimensional formula.


Stress and strain take different forms in the situations depicted in the Fig. (9.2). For small deformations the stress and strain are proportional to each other. This is known as Hooke’s law.
Thus, `"stress" ∝ "strain"`

`color{navy}("stress =" k × "strai")`n.......(9.6)

where k is the proportionality constant and is known as modulus of elasticity.

Hooke’s law is an empirical law and is found to be valid for most materials. However, there are some materials which do not exhibit this linear relationship.


The relation between the stress and the strain for a given material under tensile stress can be found experimentally. In a standard test of tensile properties, a test cylinder or a wire is stretched by an applied force.

The fractional change in length (the strain) and the applied force needed to cause the strain are recorded. The applied force is gradually increased in steps and the change in length is noted.

A graph is plotted between the stress (which is equal in magnitude to the applied force per unit area) and the strain produced. A typical graph for a metal is shown in Fig. 9.3.

Analogous graphs for compression and shear stress may also be obtained. The stress-strain curves vary from material to material. These curves help us to understand how a given material deforms with increasing loads.

From the graph, we can see that in the region between O to A, the curve is linear. In this region, Hooke’s law is obeyed.

In the region from A to B, stress and strain are not proportional. Nevertheless, the body still returns to its original dimension when the load is removed. The point B in the curve is known as yield point (also known as elastic limit) and the corresponding stress is known as yield strength `(σ_y)` of the material.

If the load is increased further, the stress developed exceeds the yield strength and strain increases rapidly even for a small change in the stress. The portion of the curve between B and D shows this. When the load is removed, say at some point C between B and D, the body does not regain its original dimension. In this case, even when the stress is zero, the strain is not zero.

The material is said to have a permanent set. The deformation is said to be plastic deformation. The point D on the graph is the ultimate tensile strength `(σ_u)` of the material.

Beyond this point, additional strain is produced even by a reduced applied force and fracture occurs at point E. If the ultimate strength and fracture points D and E are close, the material is said to be brittle. If they are far apart, the material is said to be ductile.

As stated earlier, the stress-strain behaviour varies from material to material. For example, rubber can be pulled to several times its original length and still returns to its original shape. Fig. 9.4 shows stress-strain curve for the elastic tissue of aorta, present in the heart.

`"Note"` that although elastic region is very large, the material does not obey Hooke’s law over most of the region. Secondly, there is no well defined plastic region. Substances like tissue of aorta, rubber etc. which can be stretched to cause large strains are called elastomers.