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Potential energy of solids in tension question

  1. Dec 29, 2003 #1
    Hi folks and happy new year,

    As usual i have been leafing through some old physics books and have stumbled across something that has confused me, wonder if you can help. Having looked at a 'classical' graph of interatomic potential energy against distance within a solid and how it relates to hookes law etc i realise that it doesn't completely make sense to me:


    potential
    |
    | x
    | x
    | x
    | x
    | x
    |----x(0)-------------------x(0)--------- distance
    | x xxxxxxxxxx
    | x xxx
    | x x
    | x x
    | x
    |
    |

    From this poor representation the book described the fact that when the material is placed in tension, eventually the bonds break and there is zero potential. This makes sense. What is confusing me is when i imagine the material being placed in compression because according to the graph it suggests that by doing this you can also reach zero potential. The more i think about this the more i get confused. If i imagine stretching a piece of elastic, the potential energy must increase as the graph suggests but at the same time it tends towards zero i.e the elastic snaps?? Please help me here or am i being really stupid??
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2003 #2
    Sorry folks, looks like the ASCII art didn't come out as i had drawn it. Have a look at the attached image if your interested, cheers.
     

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