Nonlinear rheology of colloidal gels with intermediate volume fraction
Journal of rheology
Synopsis The depletion attraction, induced upon addition of a nonadsorbing polymer to a colloidal solution, can lead to gel formation at sufficiently high polymer concentrations, which corresponds to strong attractive interactions. We have investigated the nonlinear rheological response, in particular the yielding, of colloidal gels with an intermediate volume fraction and variable interparticle attraction. Two distinct yielding processes are observed in both oscillatory experiments, namely,
... riments, namely, dynamic strain sweeps and transient experiments, here step rate, creep, and recovery tests. The first yielding process occurs at strains similar to the range of the interparticle potential and is interpreted as the breaking of bonds, which destroys the particle network and leads to individual clusters. The process of bond breaking is successfully modeled as the escape of a particle from the potential well of its nearest neighbor. The second yield point occurs at larger strains and is related to the deformation and fragmentation of clusters, consistent with the observed dependence of the yield strain on attraction. Both yield stresses exhibit a power-law dependence on attraction strength in agreement with observations of other systems and theoretical predictions. Furthermore, the observed two-step yielding reveals similarities, and also differences, to the rheology of attractive colloidal glasses.