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Stress, Strain, And Elastic Modulus, Other Elastic Deformations, Crystalline Materials, Elastomers, Sound WavesElastic limit, Elasticity on the atomic scale

Elasticity is the ability of a material to return to its original shape and size after being stretched, compressed, twisted or bent. Elastic deformation (change of shape or size) lasts only as long as a deforming force is applied to the object, and disappears once the force is removed. Greater forces may cause permanent changes of shape or size, called plastic deformation.

In ordinary language, a substance is said to be "elas tic" if it stretches easily. Therefore, rubber is considered a very elastic substance, and rubber bands are even called "elastics" by some people. Actually, however, most substances are somewhat elastic, including steel, glass, and other familiar materials.

The greatest stress a material can undergo and still return to its original dimensions is called the elastic limit. When stressed beyond the elastic limit, some materials fracture, or break. Others undergo plastic deformation, taking on a new permanent shape. An example is a nail bent by excessive shear stress of a hammer blow.

The elastic modulus and elastic limit reveal much about the strength of the bonds between the smallest particles of a substance, the atoms or molecules it is composed of. However, to understand elastic behavior on the level of atoms requires first distinguishing between materials that are crystalline and those that are not.

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