Elasticity: Definition and Examples

What this term used in physics, engineering, and chemistry means

A rubber band stretches and returns to its original shape, displaying elasticity.
A rubber band stretches and returns to its original shape, displaying elasticity.

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Elasticity is a physical property of a material whereby the material returns to its original shape after having been stretched out or altered by force. Substances that display a high degree of elasticity are termed "elastic." The SI unit applied to elasticity is the pascal (Pa), which is used to measure the modulus of deformation and elastic limit.

The causes of elasticity vary depending on the type of material. Polymers, including rubber, may exhibit elasticity as polymer chains are stretched and then subsequently return to their original form when the force is removed. Metals may display elasticity as atomic lattices change shape and size, again, returning to their original form once energy is removed.

Examples: Rubber bands and elastic and other stretchy materials display elasticity. Modeling clay, on the other hand, is relatively inelastic and retains a new shape even after the force that caused it to change is no longer being exerted.