Material models which have been successfully used for describing experimental observations of stress wave propagation in metals, polymers, composites, and porous materials are used in a series of one-dimensional finite-difference calculations of stress pulses propagating in a semi-infinite medium. These calculations show the effect of the material model on pulse attenuation. Parametric variations indicate the sensitivity of the attenuation to the parameters of each model. A simple conceptual description based on the hysteretic energy loss experienced by the material in a loading-unloading cycle is used to explain the results. Relevance of the results to the prediction of damage in specific engineering design calculations is developed. The results and conceptual description should aid the stress analyst in assessing which effects to include in the material model used in specific multidimensional calculations.

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