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Balsa is a wood-based material. It has the lowest density among wood-based materials. In addition, it has the highest dielectric strength and a moderately low ductility. The graph bars on the material properties cards below compare balsa to other wood-based materials (top) and the entire database (bottom). A full bar means this is the highest value in the relevant set. A half-full bar means it's 50% of the highest, and so on.

Mechanical Properties

Compressive (Crushing) Strength

7.0 MPa 1.0 x 103 psi

Elastic (Young's, Tensile) Modulus

3.0 GPa 0.44 x 106 psi

Elongation at Break

1.2 %

Poisson's Ratio


Shear Modulus

0.23 GPa 0.033 x 106 psi

Tensile Strength: Ultimate (UTS)

14 MPa 2.0 x 103 psi

Thermal Properties

Specific Heat Capacity

1700 J/kg-K 0.41 BTU/lb-°F

Thermal Conductivity

0.1 W/m-K 0.058 BTU/h-ft-°F

Thermal Expansion

6.5 µm/m-K

Other Material Properties


0.13 g/cm3 8.1 lb/ft3

Dielectric Strength (Breakdown Potential)

4.9 kV/mm 0.19 V/mil

Common Calculations

Stiffness to Weight: Axial

13 points

Strength to Weight: Axial

30 points

Strength to Weight: Bending

99 points

Thermal Diffusivity

0.45 mm2/s

Thermal Shock Resistance

51 points

Followup Questions

Further Reading

Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material, Forest Products Laboratory, USDA Forest Service, 1999