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What Does Ductility Mean?

What is Ductility?

A material’s ductility is its ability to deform in response to stress (e.g., stretch, bend, or spread) permanently. For instance, most common steels are highly ductile and can withstand regionalized stress concentrations.

Because they lack ductility, brittle materials like glass cannot withstand concentrations of stress and break readily. When a material specimen is under pressure, it initially deforms elastically, but after reaching a specific deformation (known as the elastic limit), the distortion becomes permanent.

The degree to which a material can withstand plastic deformation under tensile stress before failing is known as ductility in materials research.

In engineering and manufacturing, ductility is crucial in determining a material’s appropriateness for specific manufacturing processes (such as cold working) and its ability to withstand mechanical stress. Gold and copper are examples of materials that are typically categorized as ductile.

A material’s malleability, a related mechanical characteristic, is determined by its capacity to flex plastically without breaking under compressive force. In the past, materials were considered malleable if they could be shaped by hammering or rolling. One substance that is somewhat malleable but not ductile is lead.


Most metals, such as gold, silver, copper, erbium, terbium, samarium, aluminum, and steel, are excellent examples of ductile materials. Tungsten and high-carbon steel are two examples of metals that are not highly ductile. In general, nonmetals are not ductile.

How to Measure Ductility

A metal’s ductility refers to its capacity for deformation without fracture. Ductile metals can be pushed or molded into a different shape without cracking. Brittle metals can break (essentially the opposite of ductile).

Formability is significantly influenced by ductility. Excessively brittle metals might not be able to be satisfactorily produced. For instance, a piece of metal must have certain ductility to be stretched into a thin wire.

The moment the metal starts to extend, it will shatter if it is too brittle. Another essential safety factor for structural formations is ductility. When subjected to heavy stresses, ductility enables structures to bend and deform to some extent without rupturing.

There are two approaches to assessing ductility: percentage elongation and percentage decrease.

When a metal is dragged till it breaks during a tensile test, its length deforms as a percentage of its original size and is measured as percentage elongation.

A metal specimen’s narrowest cross-section after a tensile test-induced rupture is measured as a percentage decrease.

Temperature can affect ductility. Thus, it’s essential to consider what temperatures the metal will experience in a given application. A chart showing the ductile-brittle transition temperature for most metals is available and valuable.

Which Metals Are Ductile?

There are a variety of ductile metals, such as aluminum, brass, copper, low carbon steel, gold, silver, tin, and lead. Cast iron, chromium, and tungsten are examples of fragile metals. Metal cables, stampings, and structural beams are a few applications where high ductility is necessary.

Materials Science

Gold is extremely ductile. It can be stretched until it breaks and pulls into a monatomic wire.

The ability to manipulate materials via metal-forming operations like hammering, rolling, drawing, or extrusion is impossible with materials that crack, break, or shatter under stress. While brittle materials can be cast or thermoformed, malleable materials can be formed cold by stamping or pressing.

Metallic bonds, which are primarily present in metals and provide high degrees of ductility, give metals their reputation for being generally ductile. Valence shell electrons are delocalized and shared by several atoms in metallic bonds.

Metal atoms may slide past one another because of the delocalized electrons, which prevent other materials from shattering due to strong repulsive interactions.

Steel’s ductility varies according to the alloying elements. Carbon content rises at the expense of ductility. Many amorphous solids and polymers, like Play-Doh, are also bendable. Platinum is the most malleable metal, whereas gold is the most ductile.

Such metals deform under intense stretching without appreciable hardening through the creation, reorientation, and migration of dislocations and crystal twins.

Factors That Affect the Ductility of Metals:

Both internal factors—such as composition, grain size, cell structure, etc.—and external factors—such as hydrostatic pressure, temperature, previously experienced plastic deformation, etc.—impact ductility.

Below are a few crucial points regarding ductility:

Compared to metals with HCP crystal structures, those with FCC and BCC crystal structures have excellent ductility at high temperatures.

The degree of ductility is significantly impacted by grain size. When the grain size is excellent, many alloys exhibit super-plastic behavior on a scale of a few microns.

Higher oxygen-concentration steels have reduced ductility. Even relatively modest percentages of impurities in some alloys considerably impact ductility. At about 1040°C, the ductility of carbon steels with sulfur impurities as tiny as 0.018% rapidly diminishes. Nevertheless, if the Mn concentration is large, this can be fixed. In actuality, at 1040 °C, the Mn/S ratio is what can change how ductile carbon steels are. When this ratio is 2, the percent elongation at 1040 °C is only 12-15%, but it is 110 percent when it is 14.

The temperature has a significant impact on ductility, and hence formability. In general, it promotes ductility; but at some temperatures, it may decrease due to phase transition and microstructural changes induced by temperature rise. Temperature impacts stainless steel’s ductility

It is the least ductile at 1050 °C and the most ductile at 1350 °C. As a result, its hot operating range is quite limited.

The ductility is increased by hydrostatic pressure. In torsion testing, the length of the specimen gets shorter as the torsion is more robust. In the torsion test, the specimen exhibits better ductility when the axial compressive stress is applied than when there is none. The application of tensile axial stress further reduces ductility.

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