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The Difference Between Brittle & Ductile Fractures

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  • 0:00 Background on Brittleness
  • 0:25 Ductile vs. Brittle
  • 1:24 Preference of Ductile Fracture
  • 2:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nichole Miller

Nichole is a research scientist with a PhD in Materials Science & Engineering.

This lesson introduces the concept of ductility, gives examples of brittle and ductile materials, and explains why ductile fracture is generally preferred over brittle fracture.

Background on Brittleness

What would happen if you hit a piece of glass with a hammer? It would probably shatter into many pieces. What if you hit a piece of metal with a hammer instead? You would probably dent the metal, but it's unlikely that you would be able to break it. Why does the glass break and the metal only dent? Because glass is very brittle, whereas metal is not.

Ductile vs. Brittle

We've all seen examples of metal being bent without breaking. You may crush a can before recycling it, dent your car in a fender bender, or even bend a metal wire to make your own jewelry. In all of these cases, the metal bends but does not break. This occurs because metals tend to be ductile. Ductility is a measure of how much a material can be deformed before breaking. Deformation occurs when a material's shape changes. A few examples of deformation are bending, stretching, and denting.

Materials that can be deformed significantly before breaking are called ductile materials. Some examples of ductile materials are many metals and plastics. The opposite of ductile is brittle. Brittle materials don't deform much before breaking. Instead, they keep their shape right until they break. When brittle materials break, the cracks spread very rapidly, like in the case of shattering glass. Some examples of brittle materials are glasses and ceramics.

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