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I-beam is a generic lay term for a variety of structural members with an I or H-shaped cross-section. Technical terms for similar items include H-beam (for universal column, UC), w-beam (for "wide flange"), universal beam (UB), rolled steel joist (RSJ), or double-T (especially in Polish, Bulgarian, Spanish, Italian and German). I-beams are typically made of structural steel and serve a wide variety of construction uses.
The horizontal elements of the I are called flanges, and the vertical element is known as the "web". The web resists shear forces, while the flanges resist most of the bending moment experienced by the beam. The Euler–Bernoulli beam equation 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.