Confined systems ranging from the atomic to the granular are ubiquitous in nature. Experiments and simulations of such atomic and granular systems have shown a complex relationship between the microstructural arrangements under confinement, the short-ranged particle stresses, and flow fields. Understanding the same correlation between structure and rheology in the colloidal regime is important due to the significance of such suspensions in industrial applications. Moreover, colloidal suspensions exhibit a wide range of structures under confinement that could considerably modify such force balances and the resulting viscosity. Here, we use a combination of experiments and simulations to elucidate how confinement-induced structures alter the relative contributions of hydrodynamic and short-range repulsive forces to produce up to a tenfold change in the viscosity. In the experiments we use a custom-built confocal rheoscope to image the particle configurations of a colloidal suspension while simultaneously measuring its stress response. We find that as the gap decreases below 15 particle diameters, the viscosity first decreases from its bulk value, shows fluctuations with the gap, and then sharply increases for gaps below 3 particle diameters. These trends in the viscosity are shown to strongly correlate with the suspension microstructure. Further, we compare our experimental results to those from two different simulations techniques, which enables us to determine the relative contributions of hydrodynamic and short-range repulsive stresses to the suspension rheology. The first method uses the lubrication approximation to find the hydrodynamic stress and includes a short-range repulsive force between the particles while the second is a Stokesian dynamics simulation that calculates the full hydrodynamic stress in the suspension. We find that the decrease in the viscosity at moderate confinements has a significant contribution from both the hydrodynamic and short-range repulsive forces whereas the increase in viscosities at gaps less than 3 particle diameters arises primarily from short-range repulsive forces. These results provide important insights into the rheological behavior of confined suspensions and further enable us to tune the viscosity of confined suspensions by changing properties such as the gap, polydispersity, and the volume fraction.
- MOLECULAR-DYNAMICS SIMULATIONS
- MICROSTRUCTURAL TRANSITIONS
- BROWNIAN SUSPENSIONS