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In most elastic materials, such as metals used in springs, the elastic behavior is caused by bond distortions. When force is applied, bond lengths deviate from the (minimum energy) equilibrium and strain energy is stored electrostatically. Rubber is often assumed to behave in the same way, but it turns out this is a poor description. Rubber is a curious material because, unlike metals, strain energy is stored thermally.
In its relaxed state, rubber consists of long, coiled-up polymer chains that are interlinked at a few points. Between a pair of links, each monomer can rotate freely about its neighbour, thus giving each section of chain leeway to assume a large number of geometries, like a very loose rope attached to a pair of fixed points. At room temperature, rubber stores enough kinetic energy so that each section of chain oscillates chaotically, like the above piece of rope being shaken violently. The entropy model of rubber was developed in 1934 by Werner Kuhn.
When rubber is stretched, the "loose pieces of rope" are taut and thus no longer able to oscillate. Their kinetic energy is given off as excess heat. Therefore, the entropy decreases when going from the relaxed to the stretched state, and it increases during relaxation. This change in entropy can also be explained by the fact that a tight section of chain can fold in fewer ways (W) than a loose section of chain, at a given temperature (nb. entropy is defined as S=k*ln(W)). Relaxation of a stretched rubber band is thus driven by an increase in entropy, and the force experienced is not electrostatic, rather it is a result of the thermal energy of the material being converted to kinetic energy. Rubber relaxation is endothermic, and for this reason the force exerted by a stretched piece of rubber increases with temperature. (Metals, for...