Researchers butter up the old ‘scratch test’ to make it tough

May 26, 2011

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

It might not seem like scraping the top of a cold stick of butter with a knife could be a scientific test, but engineers at MIT say the process is very similar to the “scratch test,” which is perhaps the oldest known way to assess a material’s hardness and strength — or, in scientific language, its resistance to deformation.

Using the scraping of butter as a starting point, the engineers launched a study to see if the age-old scratch test could be used to determine a material’s toughness, or how well it resists