In general mechanical properties of structural materials improve with increasing rate of load application. For low-carbon steel, for example, yield strength, ultimate strength, and ductility rise with increasing rate of strain.

Modulus of elasticity in the elastic range, however, is unchanged. For concrete, the dynamic ultimate strength in compression may be much greater than the static strength.

Since the improvement depends on the material and the rate of strain, values to use in dynamic analysis and design should be determined by tests approximating the loading conditions anticipated.

Under many repetitions of loading, though, a member or connection between members may fail because of ‘‘fatigue’’ at a stress smaller than the yield point of the material. In general, there is little apparent deformation at the start of a fatigue failure.

A crack forms at a point of high stress concentration. As the stress is repeated, the crack slowly spreads, until the member ruptures without measurable yielding. Though the material may be ductile, the fracture looks brittle.

Some materials (generally those with a well-defined yield point) have what is known as an endurance limit. This is the maximum unit stress that can be repeated, through a definite range, an indefinite number of times without causing structural damage.

Generally, when no range is specified, the endurance limit is intended for a cycle in which the stress is varied between tension and compression stresses of equal value.

A range of stress may be resolved into two components—a steady, or mean, stress and an alternating stress. The endurance limit sometimes is defined as the maximum value of the alternating stress that can be superimposed on the steady stress an indefinitely large number of times without causing fracture.

Design of members to resist repeated loading cannot be executed with the certainty with which members can be designed to resist static loading. Stress concentrations may be present for a wide variety of reasons, and it is not practicable to calculate their intensities.

But sometimes it is possible to improve the fatigue strength of a material or to reduce the magnitude of a stress concentration below the minimum value that will cause fatigue failure.

In general, avoid design details that cause severe stress concentrations or poor stress distribution. Provide gradual changes in section. Eliminate sharp corners and notches.

Do not use details that create high localized constraint. Locate unavoidable stress raisers at points where fatigue conditions are the least severe. Place connections at points where stress is low and fatigue conditions are not severe.

Provide structures with multiple load paths or redundant members, so that a fatigue crack in any one of the several primary members is not likely to cause collapse of the entire structure.

Fatigue strength of a material may be improved by cold-working the material in the region of stress concentration, by thermal processes, or by prestressing it in such a way as to introduce favorable internal stresses.

Where fatigue stresses are unusually severe, special materials may have to be selected with high energy absorption and notch toughness.

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