If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Stress & strain

To measure the elasticity of any material we need to define two quantities. Stress and strain. In this video let's explore what these are and why we define them? Created by Mahesh Shenoy.

Want to join the conversation?

  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Ashrita Das
    can we say that everything in this universe has elasticity up to some point?
    (10 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Akashdeep  Kanwar
    When we stretch a wire, not only does its length change but, the cross sectional area changes too.
    So while calculating the stress on a string, which cross sectional area should we consider?
    The earlier one or the changed one?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Amulya M
      The change in area is generally considered negligible (unless the question states otherwise) for small forces. Hence we take the original cross-sectional area for calculations. In case the question requires you to consider the changes in area, we would have to sum up (integrate) each individual stress (usually as a function of time) for every formed length and corresponding cross-sectional area.
      (2 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Joy
    can we say that " stress is the cause of strain" ?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • starky seed style avatar for user Dishita
      Yes,
      strain (however microscopic) causes stress. i.e stress is dependent on the strain.
      Strain is directly proportional to deformation = (more the deformation = more the change in dimension)
      Think about it logically, what is strain?
      = The restorative force developed per unit area,
      the key term here is restorative force = molecules/atoms/ions are trying to restore themselves to their equilibrium stable positions, why would they need to do that if they are not displaced?
      This is also why the x-axis represents stress (dependent variable) and the y-axis strain (independent variable) in stress vs strain graphs and the moduli of elasticity.
      Hope this helps,
      Onward!
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Zahra Khan
    is it possible to stretch wavelengths of light?Does light have elasticity?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Amulya M
      Light behaves in accordance to something called the Dual Nature Theory, which basically states that light sometimes behaves like a wave and other times as a particle (photon).

      Now, elasticity is applicable only to physical objects, not for waves. Stretching or compression of the wavelength of a wave can be caused due to the movement of it from and to materials of optical densities but this doesn't imply elasticity of light.
      (3 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user om amar
    but there is no way to stretch a stone how does it has elasticity?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Akashdeep  Kanwar
    At , if we assume the longer string to be made of 5 strings, doesn't that also mean that we will be stretching 5 strings at once(like the 5 times the thickness )?
    Shouldn't that increase the restoring force.(5 times)
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Aditya Awasthi
      when there is one string it will stretch for 0.1cm(say) and for 5 strings it would be (0.1+0.1+0.1+0.1+0.1)cm {5 times for 5 strings}.So the ratio of stretching would remain same. We know for f/a is proportional to d(l)/l so if d(l)/l and a(cross sectional area or thickness ) would remain same then f would remain same. Similarly when there is an increased thickness and d(l)/l remained same f increases to make ratio f/a constant.
      (3 votes)
  • leafers tree style avatar for user Biologypro
    this video is very informative.
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • area 52 yellow style avatar for user frank.guo.dalhart
    What if the object does not always have a consistent cross-sectional area, like a tire. How do you determine the area needed to calculate stress? Do you take the average?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leaf green style avatar for user Cat Wu
    how can the strength of a beam relate to the thickness
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • starky seed style avatar for user Dishita
    I have two cases:
    1) As an object is stretched its area reduces so shouldn't the stress developed increment (like integrating the small increments for a small decrease in area == total tensile stress)?

    2)similarly, as an object is compressed its area increases so shouldn't the stress developed decrease (like integrating the small decrements in stress for a small increase in area == total compressive stress)?

    If the above reasonings are correct(more or less), then, we can say Tensile stress is lesser than Compressive stress for a given load (respective directions)
    Is this why most materials can withstand greater compressive load than tensile load?
    What about metals, why are they almost the same (Ycompression ≈ Ytensile)?
    I might be way off, but it's just a thought :)
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

when we explore elasticity of materials the two most commonly used terms are stress and strain so let's see what they are and why they are necessary all right let's begin it's something that we might be familiar with Springs we already know that if you take a spring of length L and let's say you stretch it by some amount stretch it by some amount and let go of it it tries to snap back which means there is a force trying to restore the spring back to its original shape we call that force as the restoring force and suppose that stretching that we produce the change in length is Delta L and let's say that the restoring force that's trying to bring the spring back to its original shape let's call that as F R our sense for restoring then there is a relationship between the two we call it as Hookes law and that relationship that Hookes law says that the restoring force is proportional to the displacement and we only look at the magnitudes over here we don't care about the directions because strictly speaking the restoring force is in the opposite direction of the displacement if you see properly but anyways the proportionality sign is just saying that if you increase the displacement you stretch it more the restoring force also increases makes sense if you think about it right and we've spoken about this in previous videos so if you require more clarity on this it'd be great to watch that video first and then come back over here but now the big question that we have the rumor tackle is can we generalize this concept to other things not just Springs because we've seen things like rubber band or steel bone rocks those are all elastic materials as well so can we extend the Hookes law to them that's the big question all right so let's say we have a rubber band we have a thin rubber band and imagine we stretch it so let's say we stretch it by point one centimeters the number is only for representation don't take it too literally and if we let go of it so if imagine we let go of this thing over here we know again the rubberband is gonna snap back which means there is a restoring force acting over here as well a restoring force again fr so can we say over here again restoring force is proportional to the amount of displacement just like for Springs can we do that that's the question well we could but answer is not very useful to talk about restoring forces in such situations and here's the reason why imagine instead of having a pin rubberband like this we had let's say a thicker rubber band very thick rubber band five times thicker rubber band but the same length and imagine we stretch it by the same amount and the same material then I'm pretty sure you're you agree with me in this case that your hands would be very shaky over here well because now we have much thicker rubber band we have five times thicker rubber band so I'm pretty sure you can visualize it'll be much harder to maintain this position well the reason for that is because now you have a much higher restoring force acting over here how much higher well if you think about it we can imagine this thick rubber band to be made up of five thin rubber bands right we can do that and since each rubber band is stretched by the same amount it produces the same restoring force so the total restoring force would be five times higher and that's why it'll be much more difficult to maintain this position so it means that imagine the restoring force over here was hundred Newtons as an example then over here the restoring force over here the restoring force would be five hundred Newtons five hundred five times more so notice that even though the stretching is the same the restoring force has changed and it depends on the thickness or in other words the area of cross-section right that's what that's what matters over here notice that the area were here was tiny let's say the area was one one meter square or whatever and then the area the cross-sectional area over here is five times more it will be five area so as the area increased the restoring force also increases so can we come up with a quantity that is independent of the so that it doesn't depend on the thickness and the answer is yes if you take the restoring force and divide by the area notice that number is the same in both the cases one hundred by one is one hundred five hundred by five is also one hundred and suppose you had let's say three times thicker rubber band then the restoring force would be three times as much but the area would also be three times as much and again if you do restoring force per area you again end up with hundred so a useful quantity over here would be not restoring force but the restoring force per unit area that's what's useful over here restoring force per unit area and we give this quantity a name and we call that as stress so this quantity over here is called as stress and it has a unit off let's see force per area so it'll be mutants per area is in meter square so Newton's per meter squared and what does stress tell us well just like how the restoring force in Springs tell us how hard the spring is trying to snap back to its original shape stress in general tells us how much how hard any material is trying to snap back to its original shape so notice that in these two cases although the restoring forces are different the stress is the same and therefore both these rubber bands will pretty much snap back in almost the same time and you might be wondering Oh why's that because there's more restoring force right shouldn't it snap back much quicker oh the answer is no because it's five times thicker as well if you think in terms of each rubber band fire our bands are there I mean if you think of it that way then each rubber band is again putting the same restoring force it's doing the same thing as before so restoring force could be misleading in thinking when it comes to thinking about snapping back but so so a more useful thing or the more accurate one would be to think about stress all right the next question could be what does this stress depend on could we say that this stress is proportional to the amount of stretching so if you had to say stretch this rubberband by 0.5 centimeters we would have 5 times restore during force and so five times more stress so could we just say stress is proportional delta L well turns out we can't do that and here's the reason why imagine this time we had a five times longer rubber band so let's say this was one centimeter long it's a relaxed length of one centimeter long and now we have a five centimeter long rubber band same material same thickness and let's say that we stretch it by 0.5 centimeters five times more stretching do you think they'll be guilty will be more restoring force now I want you to pause the video and think about this for a while all right the answer is no the restoring force will be exactly the same and here's the way to think about this you see since we have five centimeter long rubber band we could now assume that this is made of five such thin rubber bands and since we have stretched by 0.5 centimeter each of those rubber band have gotten stretched by 0.1 centimeter the same as before so do you see that each band is still getting the same restoring force of hundred Newtons in other words the stress because the area is the same the stress now is the same as before so just by looking at this number we can't conclude what happens to stress the says the stress is the same because if you take every one centimeter wire over here so notice if you take every one centimeter wire or the band of every one centimeter that's got stretched by the same amount so to increase the stress we need to increase the amount of stretching that's happening per centimeter not the total stretching that's all what matters so if we could increase that number then the stress would increase so the stress depends on how much stretching is happening per centimeter or in other words how much you're stretching per unit length that's what matters over here all right so the quantity that matters to us would be not Delta L but Delta L divided by L so amount of stretching per centimeter or per unit length that's what matters over here so notice in these two cases this number is the same point five by five is 0.14 one by one it also point one and that's why the stress on and the restoring force is the same in both of these and so what stress really depends on is not the change in length but the change in length per unit length and this quantity this quantity we call it as strain strain and notice it is unitless it has no units because centimeter and centimeter cancels so unit less quantity we also call this as the relative change sometimes and sometimes we also multiply by 100 and think in terms of percentage change for example notice 0.1 by 1 is 0.1 and if you multiplied by 100 we get 10 so we could say there's a 10% strain over here there's a 10% strain over here as well so you can also think of it as stress depends on how much percentage changes happen in the length not the absolute value of the change in the length all right one last thing I want to do is help you remember these new quantities stress and strain I mean sometimes you might get confused which one is which so here's how I like to think about it so usually when exams are coming close by we get stressed from inside and that's how I remember the stress has something to do with something that gets generated inside and what gets generated inside is the restoring force and that's how I remember that stress is related to the restoring force and similarly when when you lift something it left something very heavy chances are that your muscle to get pulled and we usually say that your muscles are being strained and that's how I remember that strain has something to do with something being pulled or change in length