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Tensile strength

  1. Jul 10, 2006 #1
    I am a Physics novice.

    While reading an article on tensile strength in wikipedia, I began to wonder what force is responsible for keeping the atoms or molecules of something like a rope together. I mean what force would tension on the rope would have to overcome in order to break the rope. Surely, there is some force that is the cause for the dense packing of the atoms of molecules of a rope. Please clarify.

    Thank you,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2006 #2
    A note

    Just wanted to add a note. If the tensile strength of the rope is the force keeping the atoms/molecules together, what is the cause behind this force?
  4. Jul 10, 2006 #3
    Molecules are not symmetric. Some parts of molecules are positively charged, other parts are negatively charged. These oppositely charged parts attract each other.

    For a more detailed response, please read the next 15 posts....
  5. Jul 10, 2006 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The force between atoms is generally regarded as being due to chemical bonds. The simplest cases to analyze are pure crystals.

    In physics terms, the forces are all of electromagnetic origin - they are the electrical forces due to shared electrons.

    A detailed accurate explanation of tensile strength unfortunately requires a quantum mechanical treatment

    I believe I've read that it can be shown that the virial theorem limits or prohibits arrangements of strictly classical charges from having a tensile strength, but I couldn't find a reference.
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