Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Throughout history, there has been a neverending effort to develop materials with greater yield strengths. However, a greater yield strength is generally accompanied by a lower ductility and a lower toughness. Toughness is the energy absorbed in fracturing. A high-strength material has low toughness because it can be subjected to greater stresses. The stress necessary to cause fracture may be reached before there has been much plastic deformation to absorb energy. Ductility and toughness are lowered by factors that inhibit plastic flow. As schematically indicated in Figure 9.1, these factors include decreased temperatures, increased strain rates, and the presence of notches. Developments that increase yield strength usually result in lower toughness.
In many ways, the fracture behavior of steel is like that of taffy candy. It is difficult to break a warm bar of taffy candy to share with a friend. Even children know that warm taffy tends to bend rather than break. However, there are three ways to promote its fracture. A knife may be used to notch the candy bar, producing a stress concentration. The candy may be refrigerated to raise its resistance to deformation. Finally, rapping it against a hard surface raises the loading rate, increasing the likelihood of fracture. Notches, low temperatures, and high rates of loading also embrittle steel.