Ultimate tensile strength ( UTS), often shortened to tensile strength ( TS), ultimate strength, or Ftu within equations, is the capacity of a material or structure to withstand loads tending to elongate, as opposed to compressive strength, which withstands loads tending to reduce size. In other words, tensile strength resists tension (being pulled apart), whereas compressive strength resists compression (being pushed together). Ultimate tensile strength is measured by the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. In the study of strength of materials, tensile strength, compressive strength, and shear strength can be analyzed independently.
Some materials break very sharply, without plastic deformation, in what is called a brittle failure. Others, which are more ductile, including most metals, experience some plastic deformation and possibly necking before fracture.
The UTS is usually found by performing a tensile test and recording the engineering stress versus strain. The highest point of the stress–strain curve (see point 1 on the engineering stress–strain diagrams below) is the UTS. It is an intensive property; therefore its value does not depend on the size of the test specimen. However, it is dependent on other factors, such as the preparation of the specimen, the presence or otherwise of surface defects, and the temperature of the test environment and material.
Tensile strengths are rarely used in the design of Ductility members, but they are important in brittle members. They are tabulated for common materials such as , composite materials, , plastics, and wood.
Tensile strength can be defined for liquids as well as solids under certain conditions. For example, when a treeFor a review, see Harvey Brown "The theory of the rise of sap in Trees: Some Historical and Conceptual Remarks" in Physics in Perspective vol 15 (2013) pp. 320–358 draws water from its roots to its upper leaves by transpiration, the column of water is pulled upwards from the top by the cohesion of the water in the xylem, and this force is transmitted down the column by its tensile strength. Air pressure, osmotic pressure, and capillary tension also plays a small part in a tree's ability to draw up water, but this alone would only be sufficient to push the column of water to a height of less than ten metres, and trees can grow much higher than that (over 100 m).
Tensile strength is defined as a stress, which is measured as force per unit area. For some non-homogeneous materials (or for assembled components) it can be reported just as a force or as a force per unit width. In the International System of Units (SI), the unit is the pascal (Pa) (or a multiple thereof, often megapascals (MPa), using the Metric prefix mega); or, equivalently to pascals, newtons per square metre (N/m²). A United States customary unit is pounds per square inch (lb/in² or psi), or kilo-pounds per square inch (ksi, or sometimes kpsi), which is equal to 1000 psi; kilo-pounds per square inch are commonly used in one country (US), when measuring tensile strengths.
Many materials can display linear elastic behavior, defined by a linear stress–strain relationship, as shown in figure 1 up to point 3. The elastic behavior of materials often extends into a non-linear region, represented in figure 1 by point 2 (the "yield point"), up to which deformations are completely recoverable upon removal of the load; that is, a specimen loaded elastically in tension will elongate, but will return to its original shape and size when unloaded. Beyond this elastic region, for ductile materials, such as steel, deformations are plastic. A plastically deformed specimen does not completely return to its original size and shape when unloaded. For many applications, plastic deformation is unacceptable, and is used as the design limitation.
After the yield point, ductile metals undergo a period of strain hardening, in which the stress increases again with increasing strain, and they begin to neck, as the cross-sectional area of the specimen decreases due to plastic flow. In a sufficiently ductile material, when necking becomes substantial, it causes a reversal of the engineering stress–strain curve (curve A, figure 2); this is because the engineering stress is calculated assuming the original cross-sectional area before necking. The reversal point is the maximum stress on the engineering stress–strain curve, and the engineering stress coordinate of this point is the ultimate tensile strength, given by point 1.
UTS is not used in the design of ductile Statics members because design practices dictate the use of the yield stress. It is, however, used for quality control, because of the ease of testing. It is also used to roughly determine material types for unknown samples.
The UTS is a common engineering parameter to design members made of brittle material because such materials have no yield point.
When testing some metals, indentation hardness correlates linearly with tensile strength. This important relation permits economically important nondestructive testing of bulk metal deliveries with lightweight, even portable equipment, such as hand-held Rockwell hardness testers.E.J. Pavlina and C.J. Van Tyne, " Correlation of Yield Strength and Tensile Strength with Hardness for Steels", Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance, 17:6 (December 2008) This practical correlation helps quality assurance in metalworking industries to extend well beyond the laboratory and universal testing machines.
|+Typical tensile strengths of some materials|
|Limpet Patella vulgata teeth (Goethite)||4900|
|+Typical properties for annealed elementsA.M. Howatson, P. G. Lund, and J. D. Todd, Engineering Tables and Data, p. 41|