Authors: Ehsan Azadi
In 1822, Cauchy presented the idea of traction vector that contains both the normal and tangential components of the internal surface forces per unit area and gave the tetrahedron argument to prove the existence of stress tensor. These great achievements form the main part of the foundation of continuum mechanics. For about two centuries, some versions of tetrahedron argument and a few other proofs of the existence of stress tensor are presented in every text on continuum mechanics, fluid mechanics, and the relevant subjects. In this article, we show the birth, importance, and location of these Cauchy's achievements, then by presenting the formal tetrahedron argument in detail, for the first time, we extract some fundamental challenges. These conceptual challenges are related to the result of applying the conservation of linear momentum to any mass element, the order of magnitude of the surface and volume terms, the definition of traction vectors on the surfaces that pass through the same point, the approximate processes in the derivation of stress tensor, and some others. In a comprehensive review, we present the different tetrahedron arguments and the proofs of the existence of stress tensor, discuss the challenges in each one, and classify them in two general approaches. In the first approach that is followed in most texts, the traction vectors do not exactly define on the surfaces that pass through the same point, so most of the challenges hold. But in the second approach, the traction vectors are defined on the surfaces that pass exactly through the same point, therefore some of the relevant challenges are removed. We also study the improved works of Hamel and Backus, and indicate that the original work of Backus removes most of the challenges. This article shows that the foundation of continuum mechanics is not a finished subject and there are still some fundamental challenges.
Comments: 34 pages
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