A schematic diagram for the stress-strain curve of low carbon steel at room temperature is shown in the figure. There are several stages showing different behaviors, which suggests different mechanical properties. To clarify, materials can miss one or more stages shown in the figure, or have totally different stages. In this case we have to distinguish between stress-strain characteristics of ductile and brittle materials. The following points describe the different regions of the stress-strain curve and the importance of several specific locations.
Yield Strength – Yield Point
The yield point is the point on a stress-strain curve that indicates the limit of elastic behavior and the beginning plastic behavior. Yield strength or yield stress is the material property defined as the stress at which a material begins to deform plastically whereas yield point is the point where nonlinear (elastic + plastic) deformation begins. Prior to the yield point, the material will deform elastically and will return to its original shape when the applied stress is removed. Once the yield point is passed, some fraction of the deformation will be permanent and non-reversible. Some steels and other materials exhibit a behaviour termed a yield point phenomenon. Yield strengths vary from 35 MPa for a low-strength aluminum to greater than 1400 MPa for very high-strength steels.
In many situations, the yield strength is used to identify the allowable stress to which a material can be subjected. For components that have to withstand high pressures, such as those used in pressurized water reactors (PWRs), this criterion is not adequate. To cover these situations, the maximum shear stress theory of failure has been incorporated into the ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section III, Rules for Construction of Nuclear Pressure Vessels. This theory states that failure of a piping component occurs when the maximum shear stress exceeds the shear stress at the yield point in a tensile test.