Hard Materials: Definition, Differences, and Examples

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 25, 2022
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Hard materials are hard to deal with. They’re difficult to cut, scrape, and distort. They’re also hard to work with. But what are they?

Hardness is a measure of how resistant solid matter is to various kinds of permanent shape change when a compressive force is applied.

Some materials, such as metal, are harder than others. Macroscopic hardness is generally characterized by strong intermolecular bonds, but the behavior of solid materials under force is complex; therefore, there are different measurements of hardness: scratch hardness, indentation hardness, and rebound hardness.

In this article, I’ll explain what hard materials are and how they’re used in construction and other industries.

What are hard materials

What Does the Term “Hard Material” Actually Mean?

When we talk about hard materials, we refer to a particular type of material that has a consistent property of being difficult to cut, scrape, or distort. The definition of hard material is not a single set of data or information that can be found in a single document or series of documents. Instead, it requires a custom set of methods and guidance to conform to the relevant requirements of a given project or excavation.

How is Hardness Measured?

The hardness of a substance is dictated by its crystalline structure, which is regular and frequently quite “tight.” This is true for diamonds, glass, and other hard materials. Hardness is measured using a set of standard methods that indicate the level of resistance a material has to being ripped, scraped, or cut. Some of the methods used to measure hardness include:

  • The Mohs scale, which rates a material’s hardness on a scale of 1 to 10
  • The Rockwell scale, which measures the depth of an indentation made by a diamond-tipped indenter
  • The Vickers scale, which measures the size of an indentation made by a diamond-tipped indenter

How Hard Materials are Prepared

Hard materials are often prepared using a variety of methods, depending on the particular material and the requirements of the project. Some common methods used to prepare hard materials include:

  • Cutting with a diamond saw
  • Grinding with a diamond grinder
  • Sandblasting
  • Chemical etching

Designated Limits and Clause Agreements

When working with hard materials, it is important to note that there may be designated limits or clause agreements that specify how the material should be handled or prepared. For example, there may be limits on the amount of drainage that can be allowed in a particular excavation site, or there may be clause agreements that require the use of a particular type of hard material for a given project.

Hard vs. Soft Materials: What Sets Them Apart?

Hard materials are characterized by their solid nature and high resistance to deformation, while soft materials are comparatively easy to deform and reshape. Some common examples of hard materials include steel, concrete, and mortar, while rubber and silver are examples of soft materials.

Magnetic Properties

Another key difference between hard and soft materials lies in their magnetic properties. Hard materials, such as permanent magnets, have a high coercivity and can be magnetized to produce a strong magnetic field. Soft materials, on the other hand, have a low coercivity and can be easily demagnetized.

Magnetization Loop

The magnetization loop is a graph that shows the relationship between the magnetic field and magnetization of a material. Hard materials have a narrow hysteresis loop, indicating a high coercivity and strong magnetization, while soft materials have a wide hysteresis loop, indicating a low coercivity and weak magnetization.

Atomic Structure

The atomic structure of a material also plays a role in determining its hardness. Hard materials typically have a highly ordered atomic structure, with atoms arranged in a regular pattern. Soft materials, on the other hand, have a more disordered atomic structure, with atoms arranged in a semi-random pattern.


The properties of hard and soft materials make them suitable for different applications. Hard materials are often used in construction and manufacturing, where strength and durability are important. Soft materials, on the other hand, are often used in applications where movement and flexibility are required, such as in clothing and footwear.

Sonorous Properties

Hard materials also tend to be sonorous, meaning they produce a ringing sound when struck. This is because the atoms in hard materials are tightly packed and can vibrate easily. Soft materials, on the other hand, are non-sonorous and do not produce a ringing sound when struck.

Exploring the Vast World of Hard Materials

Hard materials are solid substances that cannot be easily deformed or reshaped. They contain atoms that are compactly arranged in a regular crystalline structure, which gives them their unique properties. The hardness of a substance is determined by its ability to resist being scratched, sliced, or scraped.

Differences Between Hard and Soft Materials

The differences between hard and soft materials are vast. Some of the key differences include:

  • Hard materials are solid and cannot be easily deformed or reshaped, while soft materials are more flexible and can be easily molded or shaped.
  • Hard materials are typically more durable and long-lasting than soft materials.
  • Hard materials are often used in applications where strength and durability are important, while soft materials are often used in applications where comfort and flexibility are more important.

Customised Hard Materials

One important aspect of hard materials is that they can be customised to meet specific needs. For example, by changing the crystalline structure of a material, it is possible to alter its hardness, strength, and other properties. This enables engineers and scientists to create materials that are tailored to specific applications.

Accessing Hard Materials

Accessing hard materials can be a challenge, as they are often contained within the earth or other natural materials. However, advances in technology have made it easier to find and extract these materials. For example, mining techniques enable us to access hard materials like diamonds and iron that were once difficult to reach.

The Question of Hardness

The question of hardness is an important one in many different fields. By understanding the properties of hard materials, we can create stronger, more durable structures, develop new cutting tools and abrasives, and create customised materials for specific applications. Whether you are a scientist, engineer, or simply curious about the world around you, the study of hard materials is sure to provide many answers and insights.

Materials that can transform into solid hard substances

Some natural elements have the ability to transform into solid hard materials through processing. For example:

  • Iron can be processed into tempered steel, which has a high level of hardness and strength.
  • Boron can be processed into boron carbide, which is one of the hardest materials known to man.
  • Silver can be processed into sterling silver, which is harder than pure silver.

Customised Formulas

Some materials can be customised through formulas to enable them to resist wear, tear, scratching, and cutting. For example:

  • Mortar can be mixed with different elements to create a concrete product with unique properties.
  • Rubber can be processed to create a product with high hardness and strength.

Stored Energy

Some materials have the ability to store energy, which allows them to change into a hard substance. For example:

  • Ice can be deformed and reshaped to create a hard substance due to the energy stored within it.
  • Quartz can be scratched to create a sonorous substance due to the energy contained within its atoms.

Modern Processing

Modern processing techniques allow for the transformation of soft materials into hard substances. For example:

  • Cutting and shaping different kinds of metals can create products with varying levels of hardness and strength.
  • Through a process called tempering, glass can be transformed into a hard substance.

The vast uses and legitimate interest in hard materials have led to the development of a bank of articles and vendors who consent to share their knowledge and settings. The ability to resist wear, tear, scratching, and cutting is called hardness, and it is a property that is highly sought after in many different industries.


So there you have it- hard materials are those that are difficult to cut, scrape, or distort. They have a single set of data information, instead of requiring custom set methods. They conform to relevant requirements given project and excavation hardness can be measured using the Mohs scale, the Rockwell scale, and the Vickers scale. Hard materials are important for construction and manufacturing, and can be used for hardness and durability. They’re also used for comfort and flexibility, and so you should explore the vast world of hard materials.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.