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In materials science
Materials science
Materials science is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates...

, ductility is a solid material's ability to deform under tensile stress; this is often characterized by the material's ability to be stretched into a wire. Malleability, a similar property, is a material's ability to deform under compressive stress; this is often characterized by the material's ability to form a thin sheet by hammering or rolling. Both of these mechanical properties are aspects of plasticity
Plasticity (physics)
In physics and materials science, plasticity describes the deformation of a material undergoing non-reversible changes of shape in response to applied forces. For example, a solid piece of metal being bent or pounded into a new shape displays plasticity as permanent changes occur within the...

, the extent to which a solid material can be plastically deformed without fracture
A fracture is the separation of an object or material into two, or more, pieces under the action of stress.The word fracture is often applied to bones of living creatures , or to crystals or crystalline materials, such as gemstones or metal...

. Also, these material properties are dependent on temperature and pressure (investigated by Percy Williams Bridgman
Percy Williams Bridgman
Percy Williams Bridgman was an American physicist who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on the scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science.- Biography :Bridgman entered Harvard University in 1900,...

 as part of his Nobel Prize winning work on high pressures).

Ductility and malleability are not always coextensive – for instance, while gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 is both ductile and malleable, lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 is only malleable. The word ductility is sometimes used to embrace both types of plasticity.

Materials science

Ductility is especially important in metalworking
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills,...

, as materials that crack or break under stress cannot be manipulated using metal forming processes, such as hammer
A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses are for driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal and breaking up objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features are a handle and a head,...

ing, rolling
Rolling (metalworking)
In metalworking, rolling is a metal forming process in which metal stock is passed through a pair of rolls. Rolling is classified according to the temperature of the metal rolled. If the temperature of the metal is above its recrystallization temperature, then the process is termed as hot rolling...

, and drawing. Malleable materials can be formed using stamping
Stamping (metalworking)
Stamping includes a variety of sheet-metal forming manufacturing processes, such as punching using a machine press or stamping press, blanking, embossing, bending, flanging, and coining. This could be a single stage operation where every stroke of the press produce the desired form on the sheet...

 or press
Machine press
A machine press, commonly shortened to press, is a machine tool that changes the shape of a workpiece.-Servomechanism:A servomechanism press, also known as a servo press or a electro press, is a press driven by an AC servo motor. The torque produced is converted to a linear force via a ball screw....

ing, whereas brittle metals and plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s must be molded
Molding (process)
Molding or moulding is the process of manufacturing by shaping pliable raw material using a rigid frame or model called a pattern....


High degrees of ductility occur due to metallic bond
Metallic bond
Metallic bonding is the electrostatic attractive forces between the delocalized electrons, called conduction electrons, gathered in an "electron sea", and the positively charged metal ions...

s, which are found predominantly in metals and leads to the common perception that metals are ductile in general. In metallic bonds valence shell electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s are delocalized and shared between many atoms. The delocalized electron
Delocalized electron
In chemistry, delocalized electrons are electrons in a molecule, ion or solid metal that are not associated with a single atom or one covalent bond....

s allow metal atoms to slide past one another without being subjected to strong repulsive forces that would cause other materials to shatter.

Ductility can be quantified by the fracture strain , which is the engineering strain
Strain (materials science)
In continuum mechanics, the infinitesimal strain theory, sometimes called small deformation theory, small displacement theory, or small displacement-gradient theory, deals with infinitesimal deformations of a continuum body...

 at which a test specimen fractures during a uniaxial tensile test. Another commonly used measure is the reduction of area at fracture .

The following list ranks metals from the greatest ductility to least: gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, platinum
Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina del Pinto, which is literally translated into "little silver of the Pinto River." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal...

, iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

, copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

, zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

, and lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

. The malleability of the same metals are then ranked from greatest to least: gold, silver, lead, copper, aluminium, tin, platinum, zinc, iron, and nickel. The ductility of steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 varies depending on the alloying constituents. Increasing levels of carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 decreases ductility. Many plastics and amorphous solid
Amorphous solid
In condensed matter physics, an amorphous or non-crystalline solid is a solid that lacks the long-range order characteristic of a crystal....

s, such as Play-Doh
Play-Doh is a modeling compound used by young children for art and craft projects at home and in school. Composed of flour, water, salt, boric acid, and mineral oil, the product was first manufactured in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s...

, are also malleable.

Ductile-brittle transition temperature

The ductile-brittle transition temperature (DBTT), nil ductility temperature (NDT), or nil ductility transition temperature of a metal represents the point at which the fracture energy passes below a pre-determined point (for steels typically 40 J for a standard Charpy impact test
Charpy impact test
The Charpy impact test, also known as the Charpy v-notch test, is a standardized high strain-rate test which determines the amount of energy absorbed by a material during fracture. This absorbed energy is a measure of a given material's toughness and acts as a tool to study temperature-dependent...

). DBTT is important since, once a material is cooled below the DBTT, it has a much greater tendency to shatter on impact instead of bending or deforming. For example, zamak 3
Zamak is a family of alloys with a base metal of zinc and alloying elements of aluminium, magnesium and copper. Zamak alloys are part of the zinc aluminium alloy family; they are distinguished from the other ZA alloys because of their constant 4% aluminium composition...

 exhibits good ductility at room temperature but shatters at sub-zero temperatures when impacted. DBTT is a very important consideration in materials selection when the material in question is subject to mechanical stresses. A similar phenomenon, the glass transition temperature, occurs with glasses and polymers, although the mechanism is different in these amorphous materials.

In some materials this transition is sharper than others. For example, the transition is generally sharper in materials with a body-centered cubic (BCC) lattice than those with a face-centered cubic (FCC) lattice. DBTT can also be influenced by external factors such as neutron radiation
Neutron radiation
Neutron radiation is a kind of ionizing radiation which consists of free neutrons. A result of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion, it consists of the release of free neutrons from atoms, and these free neutrons react with nuclei of other atoms to form new isotopes, which, in turn, may produce...

, which leads to an increase in internal lattice defects and a corresponding decrease in ductility and increase in DBTT.

The most accurate method of measuring the BDT or DBT temperature of a material is by fracture testing. Typically, four point bend testing at a range of temperatures is performed on pre-cracked bars of polished material. For experiments conducted at higher temperatures, dislocation activity increases. At a certain temperature, dislocations shield the crack tip to such an extent the applied deformation rate is not sufficient for the stress intensity at the crack-tip to reach the critical value for fracture (KiC). The temperature at which this occurs is the ductile-brittle transition temperature. If experiments are performed at a higher strain rate, more dislocation shielding is required to prevent brittle fracture and the transition temperature is raised.

See also

  • Deformation
  • Work hardening
    Work hardening
    Work hardening, also known as strain hardening or cold working, is the strengthening of a metal by plastic deformation. This strengthening occurs because of dislocation movements within the crystal structure of the material. Any material with a reasonably high melting point such as metals and...

    , which reduces ductility

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