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For metals

For polymers; E = /(t, T)

(Ti-6Al-4V) at room temp

Ref. Fig. 6.8, Page 120, Callister

polysulphone polypropelene

Stiffness of metals at room temperature is time-independent


For polymers, time and temperature are important factors in stiffness

Ref. Fig. 8.4, Page 93, Charles, Crane and Furness, Selection and Use of Engineering Materials



Mirror for large telescope

Selection of material for high stiffness with minimum weight

Top view of the mirror

Side view of the mirror

Ref: Figure 7.2 from (Textbook)

Changing curvature of the mirror changes the focal length


Deflection at the center of the mirror, , is given as, 3 mga2 considering Poissons ratio = 0.33 = 4 Et3 Where, m = mass of the mirror a = radius of the mirror t = thickness of the mirror g = 9.81 m/s2 Now, we need to minimize the mass for a fixed value of deflection, , and the geometry of the mirror. Mass of the mirror is given as, m = a2.t. = density of the material

Which parameter is fixed and which can be varied in the mass equation? We can solve the deflection equation for the thickness, t, and substitute t in the mass equation,

m = (3g/4)1/2 a4 [/ (E1/3)]3/2
We can design the lightest mirror with highest stiffness with a material which has lowest value of the material index, M = / E1/3

Therefore, for a material to provide maximum stiffness at less weight the parameter M must be smallest. In other words, /E1/3 must be smallest or E1/3/ must be greatest. Let us say, E1/3/ = C (a constant) Taking log on both sides we may write:
Material A B E C

Log E

log E = 3 log + 3 log C Now, if we know the value of materials index and the slope of the equation, then we can select a material with high stiffness/weight ratio




Steel Concrete Al-alloys Glass GFRP Mg-alloys Wood Beryllium Foamed polystyrene CFRP

E1/3/ (GPa)
0.7 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 2.1 3.6 3.65 3.9 4.3



Glass is used for making telescopic mirror not for its optical property but for its high stiffness/weight property. A 70 ton glass mirror needs only 36 g of silver coating to function as a mirror

Which are the best materials for making light but stiff mirror Earlier telescopic mirrors were made of speculum metals (density 8 mg/m3), recently they have been made of glass and CFRP.


Youngs Modulus, E (GPa)

Engineering composites

Engineering ceramics Engineering alloys Glasses






Porous ceramics

Polymeric foams

Engineering polymers



1 =C=2


Density, (mg/m3)
Ashbys map; ref. Page 419, Materials Selection in Mechanical Design

Graph drawn not to scale


Stiffness critical design for transducers and Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) cantilever/tip
Silicon Nitride is used as a material to make the tip cantilever of AFM In this case, why silicon nitride and not steel (or any other material) is used for making tip? Why the cantilever design is like shape of the letter, A, and not a normal cantilever?

Measurement of a scratch profile on a surface using AFM cantilever.



Stiffness-based designs

NUH, Kent-Ridge Wing walkway

Support structure for a roof

Eiffel Tower

A model showing cross section of an airplane

Magnesium prosthetic foot

Strength based design


What is difference between a stiff material and a strong material ?



Most of the engineering structures and designs are based on strength (and stiffness) requirements. e.g. bridges, automotive, buildings, furniture etc. For some engineering designs high strength but low on stiffness is preferred. e.g. earthquake proof building designs, high strength tension wires and ropes.


For a good engineering design, material with a combination of strength and stiffness is desired
Data from Callister

E (GPa) 131 230-400 72.5

Tensile Strength (MPa) Density (g/cm3) 3600 4100 3800 4500 3450 1.44 1.78-1.81 2.58

Cost $US/kg 31.00 31-225 1.90-3.30

Aramid (Kevlar 49) Carbon E-Glass

High performance high strength materials provide maximum strength at minimum weight.
CFRP, GFRP, Carbon-Carbon composites Aluminum alloys Magnesium alloys Titanium alloys Ceramic and metal matrix composites

Source: Space World, Fukuoka, Japan


Criteria for strength critical designs:

What is strength of a material?

Resistance to plastic deformation and fracture

Why stress continues to increase even after yielding

Ref: Fig 8.11, Ashby and Jones