Imaging the Microscopic Structure of Shear Thinning and Thickening Colloidal Suspensions

X. Cheng, J. H. McCoy, J. N. Israelachvili, I. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

414 Scopus citations


The viscosity of colloidal suspensions varies with shear rate, an important effect encountered in many natural and industrial processes. Although this non-Newtonian behavior is believed to arise from the arrangement of suspended particles and their mutual interactions, microscopic particle dynamics are difficult to measure. By combining fast confocal microscopy with simultaneous force measurements, we systematically investigate a suspension's structure as it transitions through regimes of different flow signatures. Our measurements of the microscopic single-particle dynamics show that shear thinning results from the decreased relative contribution of entropic forces and that shear thickening arises from particle clustering induced by hydrodynamic lubrication forces. This combination of techniques illustrates an approach that complements current methods for determining the microscopic origins of non-Newtonian flow behavior in complex fluids.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1276-1279
Number of pages4
Issue number6047
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-C1-018-02
Acknowledgements: We thank T. Beatus, Y.-C. Lin, J. Brady, L. Ristroph, and N. Wagner for useful discussions. This research was supported by grants from NSF Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation, Division of Materials Research (DMR), and DMR Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, and in part by award KUS-C1-018-02 from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). J. N. I. was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering under award DE-FG02-87ER-45331.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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