Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 242–250 | Cite as

Brittleness of materials: implications for composites and a relation to impact strength

  • Witold Brostow
  • Haley E. Hagg LoblandEmail author


Brittleness of materials—whether it occurs naturally or with aging—affects significantly performance and manifests itself in various properties. In the past, brittleness was defined qualitatively, but now a definition of brittleness for viscoelastic materials exists, enabling analysis of all types of polymer-based materials. The quantity brittleness, B, has been evaluated for neat thermoplastics, but here composites and metal alloys are also assessed. The physical significance of brittleness is connected to the dimensional stability of materials. The connections of brittleness to tensile elongation and to fatigue are explored while its relationship to surface properties—specifically wear by repetitive scratching—is examined more closely. The economic impact of wear results in monetary loss associated with failure and reduced service life of plastic parts—thus its connection to brittleness finds use across a broad spectrum of industrial applications which utilize plastics for manufacturing, processing, etc. We also demonstrate a correspondence between impact strength (Charpy or Izod) and brittleness of polymers. It is shown that the assumption hardness is equivalent to brittleness is inaccurate; this fact has important implications for interpreting the results of mechanical testing of viscoelastic materials.


PMMA Storage Modulus Free Volume Impact Strength Dynamic Mechanical Analysis 



The authors thank the Robert A. Welch Foundation for funding (Grant # B-1203) and the US Department of Defense for a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (to H.E.H.L.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Advanced Polymers & Optimized Materials (LAPOM), Department of Materials Science & EngineeringUniversity of North Texas (UNT)DentonUSA

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