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As you might imagine, natural substances behave according to their internal properties.

They are
either brittle or ductile, depending on the amount of stress applied. The stress/strain graphs below
illustrate the bahavior of materials under stress.


TO . . .


Elastic Deformation
A brittle substance fails (ruptures) after elastic deformation. An example is a piece of window
glass which will bend slightly, then break if enough stress is applied. If stress is released before
the glass breaks, it will return to its original

A = substance with high yield strength, very

little deformation prior to failure.

B = substance with intermediate strength, some

deformation prior to failure.

C = substance with low strength, bends easily

before failure.

Ductile Deformation
Ductile deformation occurs when a substance is stressed to a point where it begins to behave like
a plastic. At this point the proportional elastic limit has been exceeded and the substance begins
to deform with less and less applied stress. The ultimate strength of the material is the highest
point on the curve in the ductile region. The rupture strength is usually lower than the ultimate
strength and depends on many factors, including the confining pressure and the amount of strain
that has occurred.
Most rocks have a very small region of elastic behavior and behave more like a plastic with

increased stress (pressure).

Permanent Strain
Permanent strain occurs when the proportional
elastic limit is exceeded and the substance does
not return to its original shape when the stress is
released. The small region in green illustrates
the amount of strain that cannot be recovered
once the stress/strain curve has reached point
"A". A piece of wire is a good example of a
substance that, when subjected to slight stress,
will return to its original shape, but, when the
elastic limit is exceeded the wire is bent.

A piece of wire is not a good example of a

natural substance that has a finite rupture
strength. Why?


Department of geoscience