Difference Between Compression vs Tension

Difference Between Compression vs Tension

Observation leads to an idea, which leads to a hypothesis, and then to evidence. Have you observed that force is an indisputable part of our day to day life? For anything you do to work, you need to apply it in a required manner.

The type you apply may differ depending on what you are dealing with. For the context of this post, we will be explaining the difference compression and tension, but before that, we will define them and explain some of their characteristics.

Definition of Compression

Compression is said to have taken place when you apply force to change an object regarding size, volume, and pressure. This force decreases the size and volume of an object but increases the pressure. One of the most common examples that come to mind in this case is the spring.

When you push a spring down, it decreases in size, making it smaller. It decreases in volume as well, but it increases in pressure, which is why it tends to forcefully bounce back to its normal shape when you release it.

There are different types of compression:

  • Uniaxial – This is when force is exerted in one direction towards the center of an object
  • Biaxial – This is when force is exerted in two different directions towards the center of an object
  • Triaxial – This is when force is exerted in three different directions towards the center of an object

In physics, this phenomenon is denoted in Newton.

Definition of Tension

Tension is said to have taken place when a force is applied on two ends of an object in an attempt to elongate it. Stretching out an object can increase its size and volume, but it decreases the pressure. Let us refer to the spring as an example again.

When you stretch it out, you see it become longer. What you do not see is that the molecules that make up the spring are forced to move farther apart from each other and their equilibrium position.

At this point, it is safe to say that the difference tension and compression of an object is in the size, volume, and molecular pressure of the object. To better understand this concept, it is important that you take note of the following terms:

  • Tensile stress – This is the tension per unit area
  • Tensile strain – increase in length divided by the original length of the body

Note also that this type of force is only applicable to solid matter. This means it is not applicable to liquid and gas. Only solids can experience tension.

Main Differences Between Compression vs Tension

Now that you have an idea of the tension vs compression meaning, let us take a look at how they are different from one another. In the table below, we will share with you the effects, application, nature, relation, examples, and other properties of these two.

Basis of ComparisonCompressionTension
DefinitionThe application of force to change an object in size, volume, and pressureWhen a force is applied on two ends of an object in an attempt to elongate it
Effect on objectForce is directed towards the objectForce is directed away from the object
RelationCompressing a springExtending a spring
ApplicationApplicable to any form of matterApplicable to only solid forms of matter
NatureUsed to transfer force to a hydraulic system as pressureA force promulgation method
FormulaN = Ma M = Mass/Weight kg A = Area.M = Mass/Weight kg g = Gravitational force

Difference Between Compression and Tension: Conclusion

Both of these phenomena can be used in different spheres of life. According to renowned scientists, it is important to quantify the compression vs tension response because this quantification can yield important info in a variety of facets.

When this quantification is known to an engineer, for instance, it helps her with material selection for a product design. She considers the environment where an end product would be used, and the pressure it is meant to withstand, then acts accordingly by choosing a material with the required ability to withstand the force in question.