Impact Test

Impact Toughness

The impact toughness (AKA Impact strength) of a material can be determined with a Charpy or Izod test. These tests are named after their inventors and were developed in the early 1900’s before fracture mechanics theory was available. Impact properties are not directly used in fracture mechanics calculations, but the economical impact tests continue to be used as a quality control method to assess notch sensitivity and for comparing the relative toughness of engineering materials.

The two tests use different specimens and methods of holding the specimens, but both tests make use of a pendulum-testing machine. For both tests, the specimen is broken by a single overload event due to the impact of the pendulum. A stop pointer is used to record how far the pendulum swings back up after fracturing the specimen. The impact toughness of a metal is determined by measuring the energy absorbed in the fracture of the specimen. This is simply obtained by noting the height at which the pendulum is released and the height to which the pendulum swings after it has struck the specimen . The height of the pendulum times the weight of the pendulum produces the potential energy and the difference in potential energy of the pendulum at the start and the end of the test is equal to the absorbed energy.


Since toughness is greatly affected by temperature, a Charpy or Izod test is often repeated numerous times with each specimen tested at a different temperature. This produces a graph of impact toughness for the material as a function of temperature. An impact toughness versus temperature graph for a steel is shown in the image. It can be seen that at low temperatures the material is more brittle and impact toughness is low. At high temperatures the material is more ductile and impact toughness is higher. The transition temperature is the boundary between brittle and ductile behavior and this temperature is often an extremely important consideration in the selection of a material.