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    Think of an automobile – a car or truck or motorbike. A sleek, elegant, study body of steel, and  powerful, functional tyres made of natural rubber. And with that, here’s the question to you – Which is more elastic, steel or rubber? Common perception will be rubber, considering items made of rubber (e.g., footwear, rubber gloves) are flexible and easy to bend. But what if you reflect upon the question for a bit longer? In the world of physics and material science, a very different answer would be provided for is steel more elastic than rubber?

    Let’s demystify the same. Let’s understand the fundamental nature of these materials. Steel’s role in construction and manufacturing is pivotal due to its strong, durable, and resilient nature. Rubber, on the other hand, is flexible, can stretch and absorb impact with ease. So, what makes one material more flexible than the other?

    Which is more elastic – Steel or Rubber?

    The key to understanding how any material (in this case steel and rubber) behaves under stress or force is to peek into its atomic, mechanical and physical properties.

    Steel’s elasticity can be gauged with an overview of steel’s mechanical properties. It’s an inherently stiff metal that can endure stress and revert to its original shape.

    Rubber’s elasticity on the other hand is seamlessly visible to all. The material is adaptable and can stretch extensively and diligently return to its original form.

    The question on the elasticity of steel and rubber therefore can only be comprehended better, with a thorough understanding of the basic concept of elasticity.

    What is elasticity?

    The meaning of elasticity can be explained as a material’s ability to return to its original configuration and shape after deformation.

    That is, when external stress or force (pressure) is removed from the material, it should be able to regain its original size and shape. Most solid materials come with its own elasticity limit. Once the limit is exceeded, the material cannot return to its original form.

    Steel has high elastic modulus and deforms less under stress, making it more elastic than rubber.

    The fact that steel is more elastic than rubber might seem counterintuitive considering steel’s rigid appearance. Steel’s elasticity is not about the extent to which it can stretch, but how seamlessly it can recover from pressure, making it indispensable in industrial applications (e.g., steel in automotive sector).

    Young’s modulus of elasticity

    For more insights on why steel is more elastic than rubber, let’s understand Young’s modulus of elasticity of a material. This theory explains that the higher the value of Young’s modulus of elasticity, the greater is the material’s elasticity.

    Steel’s elastic modulus value as per Young’s modulus is greater than that of rubber, making steel more elastic than rubber.

    Young’s modulus of elasticity meaning:

    A material’s ability to deform when external force is applied to it. It’s the ratio between stress (i.e. force per unit area) and strain (deformation).

    Young’s modulus of elasticity formula (written as E or Y):

    E= stress/strain

    Where:

    Stress: Force applied per unit area, measured in pascals or newtons (N/m²)

    Strain: Deformation of the material

    This is a fundamental property especially for metals (and/or any other material) exposed to heavy loads and stresses.

    Ranking materials by elasticity

    To understand the elastic property of steel and rubber, here’s ranking popular items and their elasticity:

    • Diamond: Highest elasticity and resistant to deformation
    • Steel: High elasticity and durability, and suitable for construction work
    • Brass: Relatively stiff and elastic, and suitable for making fittings and musical instruments
    • Copper: Less elastic than copper, but great conductors of electricity and heat, making them suitable for electrical fittings
    • Aluminium: Is lightweight and moderately stiff, more suitable in making specific components in aerospace and automobile sectors (Also read: Aluminium coils)
    • Rubber: Very flexible, low Young’s modulus value, suitable for making tyres where stretching (elasticity) is important

    As can be seen, each material has distinct properties and levels of elasticity that makes it suitable for specific applications. Diamond and steel are more elastic, rigid and strong, while rubber is more flexible and occupies a lower position in the spectrum.

    Also read: Cladding sheet – Check how aluminium, steel, copper fare as metal clads

    Steel vs Rubber: Comparative analysis

    By now we understand which is more elastic rubber or steel. This is vital for business owners, steel suppliers and manufacturers, construction builders among others, to make informed buying decisions.

    Here’s a brief comparative analysis explaining the difference between elasticity of steel vs rubber:

    Parameter Steel Rubber
    Young’s modulus of elasticity Very high (approx. 200 GPa) on Young’s modulus, denoting greater stiffness. Suitable for structural work requiring high durability and rigidity. Low (approx. 0.01 – 0.1 GPa) on Young’s modulus and very flexible.
    Limit of elasticity Very high elastic limit and can bear heavy load.

    E.g., engineering projects

    Low and can lead to permanent change at lower stress.

    E.g., use in hoses where it’s critical not to exceed the limit to avoid impact on functionality

    Elastic recovery High and can recover and return to original configuration once stress is removed. Very high and can recover even after large deformation.

    E.g., use in rubber gaskets

    Tensile strength Very high and can withstand high force without fracture.

    E.g., cables and chains

    Low and can break when stretched.

    E.g., in medical tubes

    Hardness Very hard and tough and resistant to surface transformations.

    E.g., tools

    Soft and can be deformed with the right amount of force.

    E.g., used in seals

    Ductility When in solid form, is flexible and can stretch easily.

    E.g., steel wires

    Highly stretchable and high elongation, without breaking.

    E.g., rubber bands

    In brief, steel can easily be used where strength, resilience, and ductility are important, especially for maintaining structural integrity when under heavy loads (e.g., bridges, dams, buildings, etc.). Rubber is more suitable when flexibility is required (e.g., hoses, rubber bands, tyres etc.).

    Elasticity of steel by type

    We understand the meaning of steel’s elasticity and what makes steel more elastic than rubber. Now, considering there are various grades and types of steel let’s also look at their components to understand the elasticity and stiffness aspect.

    • Carbon steel: These are high on carbon content, which adds hardness and strength to it. This makes it highly stiff and hence less elastic. That is, it does not easily return to its original shape after deformation.
    • Mild steel: This is low of carbon content and hence more elastic. It is also highly malleable and weldable and also fairly flexible.
    • Stainless steel: This contains chromium. This makes it durable, strong, corrosion resistant, and also less stiff. Hence, comparatively more elastic. (Also read: Carbon steel vs Stainless steel)
    • Alloy steel: The steel here contains other elements to enhance its properties. Alloying elements like lead, nickel, manganese, chromium, and others are added which determines its final properties and its elasticity.
    • Galvanised steel: This is standard steel with a coating of zinc to prevent corrosion. Since the coating is external, it does not impact the properties of the base metal. Hence, its elasticity will depend on the base steel, i.e., the carbon percentage in steel, whether high or low.
    • Corten steel: These are also known as weathering steel that provides a protective layer to steel to prevent corrosion/rusting. While this does not directly affect elasticity, this form of steel is selected for its anti-rusting and durable properties during application.

    Steel and rubber: Insights for business owners

    Steel is used in the construction of bridges that bears heavy loads every day. Whereas rubber is used in making car tyres that bears the weight of the vehicle. If you compare steel’s stretch to rubber’s deformation, it’s easy to understand why steel is more elastic than rubber.

    The core of the question, which is more elastic steel or rubber, hinges on the fact that elasticity is not about stretchability of a material, but how it recovers from stress.

    So, steel is highly elastic, as it can withstand high stress (or pressure), with minimum strain (deformation) and return to its original form.

    As a business owner, looking to buy steel at the best price, contact us today at Tata nexarc. We have partnered with reliable steel suppliers and offer quality steel across multiple brands. You can get instant pricing, credit facility, and on-time delivery. For more details or to get a quote, contact us today.

    Sohini Banerjee

    Sohini is a seasoned content writer with 12 years’ experience in developing marketing and business content across multiple formats. At Tata nexarc, she leverages her skills in crafting curated content on the Indian MSME sector, steel procurement, and logistics. In her personal time, she enjoys reading fiction and being up-to-date on trends in digital marketing and the Indian business ecosystem.