Direct measurements of the microstructural origin of shear-thinning in carbon black suspensions

Julie B. Hipp, Jeffrey J. Richards, Norman J. Wagner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Scientific questions surrounding the shear-dependent microstructure of carbon black suspensions are motivated by a desire to predict and control complex rheological and electrical properties encountered under shear. In this work, direct structural measurements over a hierarchy of length scales spanning from nanometers to tens of micrometers are used to determine the microstructural origin of the suspension viscosity measured at high shear rates. These experiments were performed on a series of dense suspensions consisting of high-structured carbon blacks from two commercial sources suspended in two Newtonian fluids, propylene carbonate and light mineral oil. The shear-induced microstructure was measured at a range of applied shear rates using Rheo-VSANS (very small angle neutron scattering) and Rheo-USANS (ultra-small angle neutron scattering) techniques. A shear-thinning viscosity is found to arise due to the self-similar break up of micrometer-sized agglomerates with increasing shear intensity. This self-similarity yields a master curve for the shear-dependent agglomerate size when plotted against the Mason number, which compares the shear force acting to break particle-particle bonds to the cohesive force holding bonds together. It is found that the agglomerate size scales as R g, agg ∼ M n - 1. Inclusion of the particle stress contribution extends the relevance of the Mason number to concentrated suspensions such as those relevant to the processing of carbon black suspensions for various applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-157
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rheology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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