Shear strength

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Mam Tor road destroyed by subsidence and shear, near Castleton, Derbyshire. SubsidedRoad.jpg
Mam Tor road destroyed by subsidence and shear, near Castleton, Derbyshire.

In engineering, shear strength is the strength of a material or component against the type of yield or structural failure when the material or component fails in shear. A shear load is a force that tends to produce a sliding failure on a material along a plane that is parallel to the direction of the force. When a paper is cut with scissors, the paper fails in shear.

Engineering applied science

Engineering is the application of knowledge in the form of science, mathematics, and empirical evidence, to the innovation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of structures, machines, materials, devices, systems, processes, and organizations. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application. See glossary of engineering.

The yield point is the point on a stress–strain curve that indicates the limit of elastic behavior and the beginning of plastic behavior. Yield strength or yield stress is the material property defined as the stress at which a material begins to deform plastically whereas yield point is the point where nonlinear deformation begins. Prior to the yield point the material will deform elastically and will return to its original shape when the applied stress is removed. Once the yield point is passed, some fraction of the deformation will be permanent and non-reversible.

Shearing in continuum mechanics refers to the occurrence of a shear strain, which is a deformation of a material substance in which parallel internal surfaces slide past one another. It is induced by a shear stress in the material. Shear strain is distinguished from volumetric strain, the change in a material's volume in response to stress.


In structural and mechanical engineering, the shear strength of a component is important for designing the dimensions and materials to be used for the manufacture or construction of the component (e.g. beams, plates, or bolts). In a reinforced concrete beam, the main purpose of reinforcing bar (rebar) stirrups is to increase the shear strength.

Structural engineering

Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering in which structural engineers are trained to design the 'bones and muscles' that create the form and shape of man made structures. Structural engineers need to understand and calculate the stability, strength and rigidity of built structures for buildings and nonbuilding structures. The structural designs are integrated with those of other designers such as architects and building services engineer and often supervise the construction of projects by contractors on site. They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, and vehicles where structural integrity affects functioning and safety. See glossary of structural engineering.

Mechanical engineering discipline of engineering

Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies engineering, physics, engineering mathematics, and materials science principles to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. It is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering disciplines.

Beam (structure) structural element capable of withstanding load by resisting bending

A beam is a structural element that primarily resists loads applied laterally to the beam's axis. Its mode of deflection is primarily by bending. The loads applied to the beam result in reaction forces at the beam's support points. The total effect of all the forces acting on the beam is to produce shear forces and bending moments within the beam, that in turn induce internal stresses, strains and deflections of the beam. Beams are characterized by their manner of support, profile, length, and their material.

For shear stress applies


is major principal stress and
is minor principal stress.

In general: ductile materials (e.g. aluminium) fail in shear, whereas brittle materials (e.g. cast iron) fail in tension. See tensile strength.

Ultimate tensile strength capacity of a material or structure to withstand loads tending to elongate; resists tension (being pulled apart); measured by the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking

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, whereas compressive strength resists compression. 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.

To calculate:

Given total force at failure (F) and the force-resisting area (e.g. the cross-section of a bolt loaded in shear), ultimate shear strength () is:


As a very rough guide relating tensile, yield, and shear strengths: [1]

MaterialUltimate Strength RelationshipYield Strength Relationship
SteelsUSS = approx. 0.75*UTS SYS = approx. 0.58*TYS
Ductile IronUSS = approx. 0.9*UTSSYS = approx. 0.75*TYS .
Malleable IronUSS = approx. 1.0*UTS
Wrought IronUSS = approx. 0.83*UTS
Cast IronUSS = approx. 1.3*UTS
AluminumsUSS = approx. 0.65*UTSSYS = approx. 0.55*TYS

USS: Ultimate Shear Strength, UTS: Ultimate Tensile Strength, SYS: Shear Yield Stress, TYS: Tensile Yield Stress

MaterialUltimate stress (Ksi)Ultimate stress (MPa)
Fiberglass/epoxy (23 o C) [2] 7.8253.9

When values measured from physical samples are desired, a number of testing standards are available, covering different material categories and testing conditions. In the US, ASTM standards for measuring shear strength include ASTM B831, D732, D4255, D5379, and D7078. Internationally, ISO testing standards for shear strength include ISO 3597, 12579, and 14130. [3]

See also

Shear modulus ratio of shear stress to the shear strain

In materials science, shear modulus or modulus of rigidity, denoted by G, or sometimes S or μ, is defined as the ratio of shear stress to the shear strain:

Shear stress component of stress coplanar with a material cross section

A shear stress, often denoted by τ, is the component of stress coplanar with a material cross section. Shear stress arises from the force vector component parallel to the cross section of the material. Normal stress, on the other hand, arises from the force vector component perpendicular to the material cross section on which it acts.

Shear strength (soil)

Shear strength is a term used in soil mechanics to describe the magnitude of the shear stress that a soil can sustain. The shear resistance of soil is a result of friction and interlocking of particles, and possibly cementation or bonding at particle contacts. Due to interlocking, particulate material may expand or contract in volume as it is subject to shear strains. If soil expands its volume, the density of particles will decrease and the strength will decrease; in this case, the peak strength would be followed by a reduction of shear stress. The stress-strain relationship levels off when the material stops expanding or contracting, and when interparticle bonds are broken. The theoretical state at which the shear stress and density remain constant while the shear strain increases may be called the critical state, steady state, or residual strength.

Related Research Articles

Stress (mechanics) physical quantity that expresses internal forces in a continuous material

In continuum mechanics, stress is a physical quantity that expresses the internal forces that neighbouring particles of a continuous material exert on each other, while strain is the measure of the deformation of the material. For example, when a solid vertical bar is supporting an overhead weight, each particle in the bar pushes on the particles immediately below it. When a liquid is in a closed container under pressure, each particle gets pushed against by all the surrounding particles. The container walls and the pressure-inducing surface push against them in (Newtonian) reaction. These macroscopic forces are actually the net result of a very large number of intermolecular forces and collisions between the particles in those molecules. Stress is frequently represented by a lowercase Greek letter sigma (σ).

A fracture is the separation of an object or material into two or more pieces under the action of stress. The fracture of a solid usually occurs due to the development of certain displacement discontinuity surfaces within the solid. If a displacement develops perpendicular to the surface of displacement, it is called a normal tensile crack or simply a crack; if a displacement develops tangentially to the surface of displacement, it is called a shear crack, slip band, or dislocation.

Viscoelasticity is the property of materials that exhibit both viscous and elastic characteristics when undergoing deformation. Viscous materials, like water, resist shear flow and strain linearly with time when a stress is applied. Elastic materials strain when stretched and immediately return to their original state once the stress is removed.

Mohr–Coulomb theory is a mathematical model describing the response of brittle materials such as concrete, or rubble piles, to shear stress as well as normal stress. Most of the classical engineering materials somehow follow this rule in at least a portion of their shear failure envelope. Generally the theory applies to materials for which the compressive strength far exceeds the tensile strength.

The von Mises yield criterion suggests that yielding of a ductile material begins when the second deviatoric stress invariant reaches a critical value. It is part of plasticity theory that applies best to ductile materials, such as some metals. Prior to yield, material response can be assumed to be of a nonlinear elastic, viscoelastic, or linear elastic behavior.

Mohrs circle

Mohr's circle, named after Christian Otto Mohr, is a two-dimensional graphical representation of the transformation law for the Cauchy stress tensor.

Work hardening strengthening of a metal by plastic deformation

Work hardening, also known as strain hardening, is the strengthening of a metal or polymer by plastic deformation. This strengthening occurs because of dislocation movements and dislocation generation within the crystal structure of the material. Many non-brittle metals with a reasonably high melting point as well as several polymers can be strengthened in this fashion. Alloys not amenable to heat treatment, including low-carbon steel, are often work-hardened. Some materials cannot be work-hardened at low temperatures, such as indium, however others can only be strengthened via work hardening, such as pure copper and aluminum.

Precipitation hardening, also called age hardening or particle hardening, is a heat treatment technique used to increase the yield strength of malleable materials, including most structural alloys of aluminium, magnesium, nickel, titanium, and some steels and stainless steels. In superalloys, it is known to cause yield strength anomaly providing excellent high-temperature strength.

Torsion (mechanics)

In the field of solid mechanics, torsion is the twisting of an object due to an applied torque. Torsion is expressed in either the Pascal (Pa), an SI unit for newtons per square metre, or in pounds per square inch (psi) while torque is expressed in newton metres (N·m) or foot-pound force (ft·lbf). In sections perpendicular to the torque axis, the resultant shear stress in this section is perpendicular to the radius.

Dynamic modulus is the ratio of stress to strain under vibratory conditions. It is a property of viscoelastic materials.

Cauchy stress tensor tensor that describes the state of stress at a point inside a material

In continuum mechanics, the Cauchy stress tensor , true stress tensor, or simply called the stress tensor is a second order tensor named after Augustin-Louis Cauchy. The tensor consists of nine components that completely define the state of stress at a point inside a material in the deformed state, placement, or configuration. The tensor relates a unit-length direction vector n to the stress vector T(n) across an imaginary surface perpendicular to n:

Critical resolved shear stress (CRSS) is the component of shear stress, resolved in the direction of slip, necessary to initiate slip in a grain. Resolved shear stress (RSS) is the shear component of an applied tensile or compressive stress resolved along a slip plane that is other than perpendicular or parallel to the stress axis. The RSS is related to the applied stress by a geometrical factor, m, typically the Schmid factor:

Flexural strength material property

Flexural strength, also known as modulus of rupture, or bend strength, or transverse rupture strength is a material property, defined as the stress in a material just before it yields in a flexure test. The transverse bending test is most frequently employed, in which a specimen having either a circular or rectangular cross-section is bent until fracture or yielding using a three point flexural test technique. The flexural strength represents the highest stress experienced within the material at its moment of yield. It is measured in terms of stress, here given the symbol .

Plane stress

In continuum mechanics, a material is said to be under plane stress if the stress vector is zero across a particular plane. When that situation occurs over an entire element of a structure, as is often the case for thin plates, the stress analysis is considerably simplified, as the stress state can be represented by a tensor of dimension 2. A related notion, plane strain, is often applicable to very thick members.

Failure theory is the science of predicting the conditions under which solid materials fail under the action of external loads. The failure of a material is usually classified into brittle failure (fracture) or ductile failure (yield). Depending on the conditions most materials can fail in a brittle or ductile manner or both. However, for most practical situations, a material may be classified as either brittle or ductile. Though failure theory has been in development for over 200 years, its level of acceptability is yet to reach that of continuum mechanics.

The Tsai–Wu failure criterion is a phenomenological material failure theory which is widely used for anisotropic composite materials which have different strengths in tension and compression. The Tsai-Wu criterion predicts failure when the failure index in a laminate reaches 1. This failure criterion is a specialization of the general quadratic failure criterion proposed by Gol'denblat and Kopnov and can be expressed in the form

Concrete is widely used construction material all over the world. It is composed of aggregate, cement and water. Composition of concrete varies to suit for different applications desired. Even size of the aggregate can influence mechanical properties of concrete to a great extent.

The four-point bending flexural test provides values for the modulus of elasticity in bending , flexural stress , flexural strain and the flexural stress-strain response of the material. This test is very similar to the three-point bending flexural test. The major difference being that the addition of a fourth bearing brings a much larger portion of the beam to the maximum stress, as opposed to only the material right under the central bearing.


  1. "Shear Strength of Metals".
  2. Watson, DC (May 1982). Mechanical Properties of E293/1581 Fiberglass-Epoxy Composite and of Several Adhesive Systems (PDF) (Technical report). Wright-Patterson Air Force, Ohio: Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories. p. 16. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  3. S. Grynko, "Material Properties Explained" (2012), ISBN   1-4700-7991-7, p. 38.