Shear-Induced Aggregation Dynamics in a Polymer Microrod Suspension
A non-Brownian suspension of micron scale rods is found to exhibit reversible shear-driven formation of disordered aggregates resulting in dramatic viscosity enhancement at low shear rates. Aggregate formation is imaged at low magnification using a combined rheometer and fluorescence microscope system. The size and structure of these aggregates are found to depend on shear rate and concentration, with larger aggregates present at lower shear rates and higher concentrations. Quantitative measurements of the early-stage aggregation process are modeled by a collision driven growth of porous structures which show that the aggregate density increases with a shear rate. A Krieger-Dougherty type constitutive relation and steady-state viscosity measurements are used to estimate the intrinsic viscosity of complex structures developed under shear. Higher magnification images are collected and used to validate the aggregate size versus density relationship, as well as to obtain particle flow fields via PIV. The flow fields provide a tantalizing view of fluctuations involved in the aggregation process. Interaction strength is estimated via contact force measurements and JKR theory and found to be extremely strong in comparison to shear forces present in the system, estimated using hydrodynamic arguments. All of the results are then combined to produce a consistent conceptual model of aggregation in the system that features testable consequences. These results represent a direct, quantitative, experimental study of aggregation and viscosity enhancement in rod suspension, and demonstrate a strategy for inferring inaccessible microscopic geometric properties of a dynamic system through the combination of quantitative imaging and rheology.
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