Structure-property relationships of sheared carbon black suspensions determined by simultaneous rheological and neutron scattering measurements

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Carbon black suspensions exhibit complex, shear-dependent macroscopic properties that are a consequence of the state of the suspension microstructure. In this work, the shear-induced microstructure of a model, reversible suspension of conductive carbon black in propylene carbonate is measured using simultaneous steady shear rheology and small angle neutron scattering. These experiments provide microstructural evidence for a bifurcation in the rheological properties. We show that the demarcation line for this bifurcation is the inverse Bingham number, Bi-1, which relates the magnitude of the stress response to an applied shear rate to the yield stress of the presheared suspension. At high shear rates where Bi-1 > 1, the suspension flows homogeneously and exhibits a thixotropic response that arises due to the self-similar breakdown of agglomerates with increasing shear rate. Conversely, at low shear rates where Bi-1 < 1, the applied shear drives the densification and growth of these agglomerates. This densification process leads to a gravitationally driven instability resulting in an inhomogeneous volume fraction distribution along the height of the geometry that is a function of both time under shear and shear rate. Under these shear conditions, the suspension exhibits apparent rheopexy, or antithixotropy, where a significant decline in the viscosity is observed with a step down in shear rate. The unique microstructural measurements presented here reconcile many observations in the literature regarding carbon black suspensions, including an apparent shear-thickening behavior, tunability of both the yield stress and elasticity through shear history, and transient macroscopic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-436
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Rheology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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