Work hardening

Work hardening, also known as strain hardening, is the strengthening of a metal or polymer by plastic deformation. Work hardening may be desirable, undesirable, or inconsequential, depending on the context.

A phenomenological uniaxial stress–strain curve showing typical work hardening plastic behavior of materials in uniaxial compression. For work hardening materials the yield stress increases with increasing plastic deformation. The strain can be decomposed into a recoverable elastic strain () and an inelastic strain (). The stress at initial yield is .

This strengthening occurs because of dislocation movements and dislocation generation within the crystal structure of the material.[1] Many non-brittle metals with a reasonably high melting point as well as several polymers can be strengthened in this fashion.[2] 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,[3] however others can be strengthened only via work hardening, such as pure copper and aluminum.[4]


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