When a stress or a strain is impressed upon a body, rearrangements take place inside the material by which it responds to the imposed excitation. In any real material these rearrangements necessarily require a finite time. The time required, however, may be very short or very long. When the changes take place so rapidly that the time is negligible compared with the time scale of the experiment, we regard the material as purely viscous. In a purely viscous material, all the energy required to produce the deformation is dissipated as heat. When the material rearrangements take virtually infinite time, we speak of a purely elastic material. In a purely elastic material the energy of deformation is stored and may be recovered completely upon release of the forces acting on it. Water comes close to being a purely viscous material; and steel, if deformed to no more than a percent or two, behaves in an almost completely elastic fashion. In principle, however, all real materials are viscoelastic. Some energy may always be stored during the deformation of a material under appropriate conditions, and energy storage is always accompanied by dissipation of some energy.


Linear Differential Equation Complex Viscosity Deborah Number Unit Impulse Linear Viscoelastic Behavior 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas W. Tschoegl
    • 1
  1. 1.California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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