Are arcs stronger than beams
Why are arch bridges stronger than flat bridges?
A break occurs under tension - that is, if you pull on something hard enough it will tear. The key to understanding the arc design is to understand that it will lower the maximum pull force.
Take a simple beam, prop it up at the ends, and hang a little off-center:
The tension at the bottom and compression at the top are required to balance the torque created by the vertical forces of the supports and the load in the center. Of course, the further the supports are apart or the greater the load, the greater the tension. When this voltage reaches a critical value, the beam fails.
Now if we shape the bridge into an arch, we get the following:
The additional side forces on the arc cause compression in the beam, this reduces the net stress on the floor and makes the beam better able to carry the load. You can make things even better by distributing the load more evenly, designing the shape of the arch to better optimize load distribution, and so on. However, the diagram should give you an idea of the underlying principle.
Side forces are perhaps the easiest to understand when looking at a V-shaped structure: you intuitively know that such a structure would collapse unless you put some torque at the tip to hold the legs together, or enough friction on it Deploy the base of the legs hold them together. You can also see that the force needed near the hinge (which is provided by the red "tension" tension in my top diagram) needs to be much greater than the force provided by friction on the floor (Lateral forces from the column on the arches).
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