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Ability of a deformed material body to return to its original shape and size when the forces causing deformation are removed. Most solids show some elastic behaviour, but there is usually a limitthe material's elastic limitto the force from which recovery is possible. Stresses beyond its elastic limit cause the material to yield, or flow, and the result is permanent deformation or breakage. The limit depends on the material's internal structure; for example, steel, though strong, has a low elastic limit and can be extended only about 1% of its length, whereas rubber can be elastically extended up to about 1,000%. Robert Hooke, one of the first to study elasticity, developed a mathematical relation between tension and extension.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on elasticity, visit Britannica.com.