An I-beam, also known as H-beam, W-beam, Universal Beam, Rolled Steel Joist, or double-T, is a beam with an I or H-shaped cross-section. The horizontal elements of the "I" are known as flanges, while the vertical element is termed the "web". I-beams are usually made of structural steel and are used in construction and civil engineering.
The web resists shear forces, while the flanges resist most of the bending moment experienced by the beam. Beam theory shows that the I-shaped section is a very efficient form for carrying both bending and shear loads in the plane of the web. On the other hand, the cross-section has a reduced capacity in the transverse direction, and is also inefficient in carrying torsion, for which hollow structural sections are often preferred.
A T-beam, used in construction, is a load-bearing structure of reinforced concrete, wood or metal, with a t-shaped cross section. The top of the t-shaped cross section serves as a flange or compression member in resisting compressive stresses. The web (vertical section) of the beam below the compression flange serves to resist shear stress and to provide greater separation for the coupled forces of bending.
The T-beam has a big disadvantage compared to an I-beam because it has no bottom flange with which to deal with tensile forces. One way to make a T-beam more efficient structurally is to use an inverted T-beam with a floor slab or bridge deck joining the tops of the beams. Done properly, the slab acts as the compression flange.
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