Testing Uncovers Titanic Mystery

In light of the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic this weekend, we're sharing a story found on ABCNews.com.

The Unsinkable Ship sank in less than 3 hours back in 1912. Did the Titanic sink simply due to the impact of an iceberg and the speed of the ship or was it a malfunction in the mechanical property of a key material holding the ship together?

A recent study, conducted by Tim Foecke of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and his colleagues, tested the rivets of the ship's hull; rivets that were made of wrought iron, not steel like the rest of the ship's rivets. The one big difference: wrought iron tends to soften at lower temperatures.

Using a static hydraulic universal testing system, Foecke and colleagues simulated the ship's design with 2 pieces of 1-inch thick steel plates held together with wrought-iron rivets. Through a compression test, they were able to simulate the force on the rivets and found that the rivet heads broke off, proving their substandard quality. As the rivet heads popped, the steel plates separated, allowing water to pour into the ship's hull at a very fast rate.

"If the wrought iron rivets were up to standards, they would have been fine," says Foecke. "But since there was no method for quality checking, the rivets used on the Titanic were not up to standards, which caused them to fail prematurely."

Originally posted on April 13, 2012 , Updated On June 20, 2024