Suspension rheology and extrusion : a discrete element method study
Ness, Christopher John
A suspension is a fully saturated mixture of discrete solid particles and interstitial liquid. Examples of suspensions include pastes, slurries, cement, food-spreads, drilling fluids and some geophysical flows. The present work focusses on granular (as opposed to colloidal) suspensions, which we define as those for which the thermal motion of the solid particles is negligible. Despite such ubiquity in industry and nature, our understanding of the mechanical properties of suspensions lags behind that of their constituent solid and liquids. In this thesis, the discrete element method is used to simulate suspension flow in shear, capillary and constriction geometries, mapping and characterising the fundamental flow, or rheological, regimes. As a starting point (Chapter 2), we consider an established regime map for dry granular materials, appropriate for flows of sand, grains and dry debris. Taking guidance from shear flow simulations that consider the lubricating effect of an interstitial liquid, we recast the regime map for a general suspension, elucidating flows comparable to the dry material or to a viscous liquid, dependent on the shear rate, liquid viscosity and particle stiffness. We give an account of the microstructural traits associated with each regime. Motivated by recent groundbreaking theoretical, computational and experimental work, we incorporate the emerging picture of frictional shear thickening into our regime map (Chapter 3). Our shear flow simulations capture the shear thickening behaviour and demonstrate that it may, in principle, occur in any of the identified flow regimes. Our simulations of time-dependent shear flows (Chapter 4), specifically flow reversal, provide a detailed micro-mechanical explanation of a longstanding and previously unexplained experimental finding, guiding future experimentalists in decomposing the particle and liquid contributions to the viscosity of any suspension. Indeed, the findings have already been exploited in the devising of an experimental protocol that has successfully proven the dominance of particle contacts in driving shear thickening. We next consider suspension flow in a microchannel (Chapter 5), finding that the identified shear flow regimes are locally applicable to flows in complex geometries under inhomogeneous stress conditions only when the local mean shear rate exceeds temporal velocity fluctuations. A more comprehensive description is therefore required to fully characterise the flow behaviour in this geometry. Finally (Chapter 6), we simulate pressure driven suspension flow through a constriction geometry, observing highly inhomogeneous stress distributions and velocity profiles. The roles of particle and fluid properties are considered in the context of an industrial paste extrusion process.