AskDefine | Define viscoelastic

Dictionary Definition

viscoelastic adj : having viscous as well as elastic properties

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Referring to a material that is viscous and elastic.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Viscoelasticity is the property of materials that exhibit both viscous and elastic characteristics when undergoing deformation. Viscous materials, like honey, resist shear flow and strain linearly with time when a stress is applied. Elastic materials strain instantaneously when stretched and just as quickly return to their original state once the stress is removed. Viscoelastic materials have elements of both of these properties and, as such, exhibit time dependent strain. Whereas elasticity is usually the result of bond stretching along crystallographic planes in an ordered solid, viscoelasticity is the result of the diffusion of atoms or molecules inside of an amorphous material .


In the nineteenth century, physicists such as Maxwell, Boltzmann, and Kelvin researched and experimented with creep and recovery of glasses, metals, and rubbers . Viscoelasticity was further examined in the late twentieth century when synthetic polymers were engineered and used in a variety of applications
Conversely, for low stress states/longer time periods, the time derivative components are negligible and the dashpot can be effectively removed from the system - an "open" circuit. As a result, only the spring connected in parallel to the dashpot will contribute to the total strain in the system. Applications : metals and alloys at temperatures lower than one quarter of their absolute melting temperature (expressed in K).

Effect of temperature on viscoelastic behavior

The secondary bonds of a polymer constantly break and reform due to thermal motion. Application of a stress favors some conformations over others, so the molecules of the polymer will gradually "flow" into the favored conformations over time. Because thermal motion is one factor contributing to the deformation of polymers, viscoelastic properties change with increasing or decreasing temperature. In most cases, the creep modulus, defined as the ratio of applied stress to the time-dependent strain, decreases with increasing temperature. Generally speaking, an increase in temperature correlates to a logarithmic decrease in the time required to impart equal strain under a constant stress. In other words, it takes less energy to stretch a viscoelastic material an equal distance at a higher temperature than it does at a lower temperature.

Viscoelastic creep

When subjected to a step constant stress, viscoelastic materials experience a time-dependent increase in strain. This phenomenon is known as viscoelastic creep.
At a time t0, a viscoelastic material is loaded with a constant stress that is maintained for a sufficiently long time period. The material responds to the stress with a strain that increases until the material ultimately fails. When the stress is maintained for a shorter time period, the material undergoes an initial strain until a time t1, after which the strain immediately decreases (discontinuity) then gradually decreases at times t > t1 to a residual strain.
Viscoelastic creep data can be presented by plotting the creep modulus (constant applied stress divided by total strain at a particular time) as a function of time . Below its critical stress, the viscoelastic creep modulus is independent of stress applied. A family of curves describing strain versus time response to various applied stress may be represented by a single viscoelastic creep modulus versus time curve if the applied stresses are below the material's critical stress value.
Viscoelastic creep is important when considering long-term structural design. Given loading and temperature conditions, designers can choose materials that best suit component lifetimes.

Measuring viscoelasticity

Though there are many instruments that test the mechanical and viscoelastic response of materials, broadband viscoelastic spectroscopy (BVS) and resonant ultrasound specstroscopy (RUS) are more commonly used to test viscoelastic behavior because they can be used above and below ambient temperatures and are more specific to testing viscoelasticity. These two instruments employ a damping mechanism at various frequencies and time ranges with no appeal to time-temperature superposition . Using BVS and RUS to study the mechanical properties of materials is important to understanding how a material exhibiting viscoelasticity will perform .


  • Silbey and Alberty (2001): Physical Chemistry, 857. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Allen and Thomas (1999): "The Structure of Materials," 51.
  • Crandal et al. (1999): "An Introduction to the Mechanics of Solids" 348
  • J.Lemaitre and J.L. Chaboche (1994)" Mechanics of solid materials"
viscoelastic in Arabic: لزوجة مرنة
viscoelastic in German: Viskoelastizität
viscoelastic in Spanish: Viscoelasticidad
viscoelastic in Ukrainian: В'язкоеластичність
viscoelastic in Chinese: 粘弹性
viscoelastic in Japanese: 粘弾性
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