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Modulus of Elasticity vs. Modulus of Rigidity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 13, 2023
Modulus of Elasticity measures material's ability to deform elastically under stress, whereas Modulus of Rigidity relates to deformation under shear stress.

Key Differences

Discussing modulus of elasticity necessitates addressing its role in portraying a material's tendency to deform non-permanently (elastically) when subjected to stress. This mechanical property quantifies how much a material will deform under tension or compression and return to its original shape upon stress removal. In contrast, the modulus of rigidity fundamentally governs a material's deformation under the influence of shear stress, indicating its resistance to shape changes that do not involve volume alterations.
Delving deeper, the modulus of elasticity, often recognized as Young's modulus, is fundamentally vital in multiple engineering applications, such as designing structures or materials that should not deform substantially under operational loads. Meanwhile, the modulus of rigidity, also dubbed as the shear modulus, becomes crucial when engineers and designers work with objects that may be subject to twisting or shearing forces, ensuring they maintain their structural integrity and functionality despite such stresses.
It’s pivotal to note that the modulus of elasticity takes center stage when engineers grapple with situations involving normal stress and strain, where forces are perpendicular to the material's surface. In a distinctly disparate vein, the modulus of rigidity becomes paramount in scenarios revolving around shear stress and strain, wherein the acting forces are parallel to the surface of the material, making them crucial in assessing resistance to forces that might cause adjacent particles within a material to slide against each other.
From a material science perspective, the modulus of elasticity facilitates valuable insights into a material's stiffness when subjected to tensile or compressive stress, significantly impacting material selection in industries like aerospace, construction, and manufacturing. In a similar context, the modulus of rigidity aids in determining how a material will respond to shearing forces, offering pivotal data for industries like automotive and manufacturing, where parts might be subject to torsional forces.
In scenarios involving complex stress states, both the modulus of elasticity and modulus of rigidity might be utilized concurrently. This bifocal approach equips engineers and material scientists with a comprehensive perspective on material behavior, thereby enabling the development of materials and structures that steadfastly retain their integrity amidst diverse stress conditions.

Comparison Chart

Type of Stress Accounted For

Normal stress (tensile/compressive)
Shear stress

Dimension in Stress-Strain Graph

Slope of the stress-strain curve in elastic region
Slope of the shear stress-shear strain graph




Pascals (Pa)
Pascals (Pa)

Modulus of Elasticity and Modulus of Rigidity Definitions

Modulus of Elasticity

Measures a material's ability to return to its original shape post-deformation.
The modulus of elasticity of aluminum ensures it is sturdy yet flexible for applications like soda cans.

Modulus of Rigidity

Represents a material's innate capability to withstand shape changes under shear stress.
Because of its low modulus of rigidity, rubber can effortlessly deform under minimal shear stress.

Modulus of Elasticity

A material's resistance to elastic deformation under applied load.
Steel, with a high modulus of elasticity, resists deformation, making it suitable for construction.

Modulus of Rigidity

A metric that quantifies a material's deformability due to shearing forces.
A high modulus of rigidity in steel implies notable resistance to shape alterations under shear stress.

Modulus of Elasticity

Describes the ratio of stress to strain in the elastic deformation phase.
Rubber has a low modulus of elasticity, signifying more deformation under less stress.

Modulus of Rigidity

A measure indicating the stiffness of a material in response to applied shearing forces.
Concrete, with a considerable modulus of rigidity, resists shearing forces effectively.

Modulus of Elasticity

An indicator of a material's response to tensile or compressive forces.
The high modulus of elasticity in titanium explains its usage in aerospace engineering for its strength and lightness.

Modulus of Rigidity

A numerical expression denoting how a material resists deformation under torsional forces.
Owing to its elevated modulus of rigidity, aluminum is employed in applications where resistance to twisting is pivotal.

Modulus of Elasticity

Numerical expression of a substance's inherent stiffness when exposed to stress.
Glass exhibits a substantial modulus of elasticity, highlighting its tendency to be brittle.

Modulus of Rigidity

Expresses a ratio, specifically between shear stress and the resultant shear strain in a material.
Materials like lead, having a lower modulus of rigidity, can deform easily under lower shearing forces.


Is the modulus of elasticity also known by another name?

Yes, it’s commonly referred to as Young's Modulus.

What physical concept does modulus of elasticity primarily explore?

It explores a material's elastic deformation under normal (tensile/compressive) stress.

Is the modulus of rigidity primarily associated with shear stress?

Yes, it specifically relates to how materials deform under shear stress.

Does modulus of rigidity have alternative names?

Yes, it's often termed as the shear modulus.

Can materials exhibit high values for both moduli simultaneously?

Yes, materials can exhibit high modulus of elasticity and rigidity, like some metals.

Can a material's modulus of elasticity and rigidity be equal?

This is theoretically possible but uncommon due to differing stress types involved.

How does the modulus of rigidity inform the creation of mechanical components?

It guides material selection for components needing to resist shear and torsional stresses effectively.

Can temperature affect a material's modulus of rigidity?

Yes, temperature changes can impact material properties, altering the modulus of rigidity.

Are polymers generally associated with a high modulus of elasticity?

Polymers typically exhibit a lower modulus of elasticity compared to metals.

Why is the modulus of elasticity pivotal in bridge construction?

It helps engineers select materials that can bear loads without excessive deformation, ensuring structural integrity.

What can enhance a material’s modulus of elasticity?

Factors like increased material density and stronger atomic bonds can enhance it.

Can a material's modulus of elasticity change with external conditions?

Yes, external factors like temperature or pressure can impact the modulus of elasticity.

What symbol commonly represents modulus of rigidity?

It’s frequently symbolized as “G”.

In what units are the modulus of elasticity and rigidity typically expressed?

Both are usually expressed in Pascals (Pa).

Can different materials have the same modulus of rigidity?

Yes, distinct materials can share similar modulus of rigidity values.

How is the modulus of elasticity typically represented in equations?

It’s often symbolized by the letter “E”.

Is modulus of elasticity significant in construction material selection?

Absolutely, it informs the selection of materials that can withstand specific loads without permanent deformation.

What role does modulus of rigidity play in automotive design?

It helps designers select materials that resist deformation under shearing and torsional forces.

What relationship do modulus of elasticity and rigidity hold with material stiffness?

Higher values of both moduli generally correlate with increased material stiffness.

How does modulus of rigidity impact a material's response to torsional stress?

It indicates how much a material will deform (twist) under torsional stress without undergoing permanent deformation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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