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Hardness vs. Toughness: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Hardness measures a material's resistance to deformation, especially by scratching, while toughness indicates a material's ability to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing.
Hardness vs. Toughness

Key Differences

Hardness is a property that determines a material's resistance to being permanently deformed when a force is applied. This often includes resistance to scratching and indentation. Toughness, conversely, is the ability of a material to absorb energy and deform without breaking, providing an indication of the material's durability under impact.
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In testing, hardness is measured by tools like the Mohs scale for minerals or the Brinell scale for metals. These tests involve pressing a hard object into the material. Toughness tests involve measuring the energy absorbed by a material until it fails, such as in a Charpy impact test.
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When considering applications, materials with high hardness are often used in cutting tools and abrasives, as they can withstand wear and tear. Materials with high toughness are preferred in structural applications where resistance to impact and long-term durability are crucial.
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Hardness does not inherently imply a material's strength; a hard material can be brittle. Toughness implies that a material can endure significant deformation before fracturing, indicating a balance between strength and ductility.
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In summary, while hardness is about resisting surface deformation, toughness concerns the overall energy a material can absorb before fracturing. Both are crucial for different engineering applications, and a balance is often sought depending on the specific use.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Resistance to surface deformation
Ability to absorb energy without breaking
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Measurement

Mohs, Brinell, Rockwell scales
Charpy impact test, fracture toughness
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Typical Uses

Cutting tools, abrasives
Structural components, safety equipment
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Associated Property

Surface resistance, wear resistance
Durability, energy absorption
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Material Behavior

May be brittle
Often ductile, deforms before breaking
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Hardness and Toughness Definitions

Hardness

Hardness measures a material's resistance to indentation and scratching.
The hardness of the diamond makes it ideal for cutting tools.
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Dec 11, 2023

Toughness

Toughness is important in safety equipment to protect against impact.
The toughness of a helmet's material can save lives in accidents.
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Hardness

In geology, hardness often refers to a mineral's ability to scratch another.
The hardness of quartz allows it to scratch glass easily.
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Toughness

Tough materials are often used in structures to withstand dynamic loads.
The toughness of steel beams is crucial for earthquake-resistant buildings.
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Hardness

Hardness tests like the Mohs scale categorize materials based on their surface resistance.
Talc ranks low on the Mohs hardness scale, making it very soft.
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Toughness

Toughness measures a material's ability to absorb energy and deform without fracturing.
The toughness of rubber makes it ideal for shock-absorbing products.
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Hardness

The quality or condition of being hard.
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Toughness

In materials science, toughness is a material's resistance to crack propagation.
The toughness of tempered glass prevents it from shattering easily.
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Hardness

The relative resistance of a mineral to scratching, as measured by the Mohs scale.
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Dec 10, 2023

Toughness

Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and resilient
A tough all-weather fabric.
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Hardness

The relative resistance of a metal or other material to denting, scratching, or bending.
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Toughness

Hard to cut or chew
Tough meat.
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Hardness

The quality of being hard.
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Toughness

Physically hardy; rugged
Tough mountaineers.
A tough cop.
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Hardness

An instance of this quality; hardship.
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Toughness

Strong-minded; resolute
A tough negotiator.
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Hardness

(inorganic chemistry) The quantity of calcium carbonate dissolved in water, usually expressed in parts per million (ppm).
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Toughness

Aggressive; pugnacious.
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Hardness

The resistance to scratching, cutting, indentation or abrasion of a metal or other solid material.
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Toughness

Inclined to violent or disruptive behavior; rowdy or rough
A tough street group.
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Hardness

(physics) The penetrating ability of electromagnetic radiation, such as x-rays; generally, the shorter the wavelength, the harder and more penetrating the radiation.
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Toughness

Difficult to endure; severe; harsh
A tough winter.
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Hardness

The measure of resistance to damage of a facility, equipment, installation, or telecommunications infrastructure when subjected to attack.
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Toughness

Trying or unpleasant
Had a tough day.
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Hardness

A measure of how hard a material is
The hardness of the material was high.
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Toughness

Difficult to deal with; demanding or troubling
It's tough to go to school and work a full-time job. The exam had many tough questions.
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Hardness

The quality or state of being hard, literally or figuratively.
The habit of authority also had given his manners some peremptory hardness.
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Toughness

(Informal) Unfortunate; too bad
It was a tough break to get sick on the day of the concert.
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Hardness

The cohesion of the particles on the surface of a body, determined by its capacity to scratch another, or be itself scratched; - measured among minerals on a scale of which diamond and talc form the extremes.
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Toughness

(Slang) Fine; great.
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Hardness

The peculiar quality exhibited by water which has mineral salts dissolved in it. Such water forms an insoluble compound with soap, and is hence unfit for washing purposes.
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Toughness

A violent or rowdy person; a hoodlum or thug.
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Hardness

The property of being rigid and resistant to pressure; not easily scratched; measured on Mohs scale
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Toughness

(uncountable) The state of being tough.
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Hardness

Devoid of passion or feeling
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Toughness

Resistance to fracture when stressed, or the degree of such resistance.
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Hardness

The quality of being difficult to do;
He assigned a series of problems of increasing hardness
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Toughness

(psychologically, emotionally, or biologically) Fortitude; hardiness; mettle.
Intestinal fortitude
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Hardness

Excessive sternness;
Severity of character
The harshness of his punishment was inhuman
The rigors of boot camp
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Toughness

A formidable difficulty.
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Hardness

Hardness in metals determines their suitability for high-wear applications.
The hardness of steel is crucial for its use in construction.
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Toughness

The quality or state of being tough.
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Dec 10, 2023

Hardness

Hardness is a critical property in manufacturing for determining material wear.
The hardness of a tool's material affects its lifespan and efficiency.
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Toughness

Enduring strength and energy
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Toughness

The property of being big and strong
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Toughness

The elasticity and hardness of a metal object; its ability to absorb considerable energy before cracking
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Toughness

Impressive difficulty
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Toughness

Toughness combines strength and ductility, allowing materials to bend without breaking.
The toughness of athletic shoes is key to supporting vigorous movements.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How is hardness measured?

Hardness is measured using scales like Mohs for minerals and Brinell or Rockwell for metals.
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What defines hardness in materials?

Hardness is defined by a material's resistance to deformation, particularly surface indentation.
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Is glass hard or tough?

Glass is hard as it resists scratches, but it is not tough as it breaks easily upon impact.
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Are metals typically hard?

Many metals are hard, especially when alloyed or heat-treated, but their hardness can vary.
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What is an example of a tough material?

Polymers like rubber are examples of tough materials due to their energy-absorbing capacity.
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What is the essence of toughness?

Toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and deform without breaking.
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Can a material be both hard and tough?

Yes, some materials, like certain alloys, can exhibit both hardness and toughness.
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Is toughness important in vehicles?

Yes, toughness is crucial in vehicles for safety during impacts.
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What tests measure toughness?

Toughness is measured by tests like the Charpy impact test and fracture toughness tests.
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Is hardness related to a material's melting point?

Not directly, though materials with high melting points often have high hardness.
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Can toughness be increased?

Yes, through processes like alloying, heat treatment, and tempering.
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Are diamonds hard or tough?

Diamonds are extremely hard but not particularly tough, as they can shatter upon impact.
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Is hardness a factor in choosing jewelry materials?

Yes, the hardness of gemstones determines their wearability and longevity.
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What role does hardness play in tool manufacturing?

Hardness is vital for wear resistance and longevity in cutting tools and machinery.
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Are all hard materials resistant to all types of deformation?

Hard materials resist surface deformation but may not withstand bending or twisting.
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Does a high toughness mean a material is indestructible?

No, but it does mean the material can endure more stress before failing.
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Do plastics have high hardness?

Most plastics have low to moderate hardness but can have high toughness.
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Can toughness be a disadvantage?

In some applications, excessive toughness can lead to undesired deformations.
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Do ceramics have high hardness?

Yes, ceramics are typically hard but are often brittle and lack toughness.
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How does temperature affect toughness?

Toughness can decrease at very low or high temperatures, depending on the material.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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