Fragile networks and rheology of concentrated suspensions

H. Kanai, R. C. Navarrete, Chris Macosko, L. E. Scriven

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Suspensions consisting of particles of colloidal dimensions have been reported to form connected structures. When attractive forces act between particles in suspension they may flocculate and, depending on particle concentration, shear history and other parameters, flocs may build-up in a three-dimensional network which spans the suspension sample. In this paper a floc network model is introduced to interpret the elastic behavior of flocculated suspensions at small deformations. Elastic percolation concepts are used to explain the variation of the elastic modulus with concentration. Data taken from the suspension rheology literature, and new results with suspensions of magnetic γ-Fe2O3 and non-magnetic α-Fe2O3 particles in mineral oil are interpreted with the model proposed. Non-zero elastic modulus appeared at threshold particle concentrations of about 0.7 vol.% and 0.4 vol.% of the magnetic and non-magnetic suspensions, respectively. The difference is attributed to the denser flocs formed by magnetic suspensions. The volume fraction of particles in the flocs was estimated from the threshold particle concentration by transforming this concentration into a critical volume concentration of flocs, and identifying this critical concentration with the theoretical percolation threshold of three-dimensional networks of different coordination numbers. The results obtained indicate that the flocs are low-density structures, in agreement with cryo-scanning electron micrographs. Above the critical concentration the dynamic elastic modulus G′ was found to follow a scaling law of the type G′ ∼ (Φffc)f, where Φf is the volume fraction of flocs in suspension, and Φfcis its threshold value. For magnetic suspensions the exponent f was found to rise from a low value of about 1.0 to a value of 2.26 as particle concentration was increased. For the non-magnetic a similar change in f was observed; f changed from 0.95 to 3.6. Two other flocculated suspension systems taken from the literature showed a similar change in exponent. This suggests the possibility of a change in the mechanism of stress transport in the suspension as concentration increases, i.e., from a floc-floc bond-bending force mechanism to a rigidity percolation mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalRheologica Acta
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1992


  • Iron oxide
  • concentrated colloidal suspension
  • cryo-scanning electron microscopy
  • flocculated suspension
  • linear viscoelasticity
  • percolation

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