Mechanical Engineering

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Mechanical Engineering

© All Rights Reserved

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R. Shankar Subramanian

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Clarkson University

Fluids such as water, air, ethanol, and benzene are Newtonian. This means that a plot of shear

stress versus shear rate at a given temperature is a straight line with a constant slope that is

independent of the shear rate. We call this slope the viscosity of the fluid. Also, the plot passes

through the origin, that is, the shear rate is zero when the shear stress is zero. All gases are

Newtonian. Also, low molecular weight liquids, and solutions of low molecular weight

substances in liquids are usually Newtonian. Some examples are aqueous solutions of sugar or

salt.

Shear Stress

Any fluid that does not obey the Newtonian relationship between the shear stress and shear rate

is called non-Newtonian. The subject of Rheology is devoted to the study of the behavior of

such fluids. High molecular weight liquids, which include polymer melts and solutions of

polymers, as well as liquids in which fine particles are suspended (slurries and pastes), are

usually non-Newtonian. In this case, the slope of the shear stress versus shear rate curve will not

be constant as we change the shear rate. When the viscosity decreases with increasing shear rate,

we call the fluid shear-thinning. In the opposite case where the viscosity increases as the fluid is

subjected to a higher shear rate, the fluid is called shear-thickening. Shear-thinning behavior is

more common than shear-thickening. Shear-thinning fluids also are called pseudoplastic fluids.

A typical shear stress versus shear rate plot for a shear-thinning fluid looks like this.

shear-thinning fluid

Shear Rate

We describe the relationship between the shear stress and shear rate as follows.

=

1

Apparent Viscosity

Here, is called the apparent viscosity of the fluid, and is a function of the shear rate. In the

above example, a plot of as a function of the shear rate looks like this.

shear-thinning fluid

Shear Rate

Many shear-thinning fluids will exhibit Newtonian behavior at extreme shear rates, both low and

high. For such fluids, when ln (apparent viscosity) is plotted against ln (shear rate), we see a

curve like this.

ln Apparent Viscosity

Newtonian Region

Power-Law Region

shear-thinning fluid

Newtonian Region

ln Shear Rate

The regions where the apparent viscosity is approximately constant are known as Newtonian

regions. The behavior between these regions can usually be approximated by a straight line on

these axes. It is known as the power-law region. In this region, we can approximate the

behavior by

ln = a + b ln

which can be rewritten as

= Kb

where K = exp ( a ) . Instead of b we commonly use ( n 1) for the exponent and write a result

for the apparent viscosity as follows.

= K n 1

Upon using the connection among the shear stress, apparent viscosity, and the shear rate we get

the power-law model.

= K n

where n is called the power-law index. Note that n = 1 corresponds to Newtonian behavior.

Typically, for shear thinning fluids, n lies between 1/ 3 and 1/ 2 , even though other values are

possible.

Examples of shear-thinning fluids are polymer melts such as molten polystyrene, polymer

solutions such as polyethylene oxide in water, and some paints. You can see that when paint is

sheared with a brush, it flows comfortably, but when the shear stress is removed, its viscosity

increases so that it no longer flows easily. Of course, the solvent evaporates soon and then the

paint sticks to the surface. The behavior of paint is a bit more complex than this, because the

viscosity changes with time at a given shear rate.

Shear Stress

Some slurries and pastes exhibit an increase in apparent viscosity as the shear rate is increased.

They are called shear-thickening or dilatant fluids. Typical plots of shear stress versus shear rate

and apparent viscosity versus shear rate are shown in the two figures displayed next.

shear-thickening fluid

Shear Rate

Apparent Viscosity

shear-thickening fluid

Shear Rate

Some examples of shear-thickening fluids are corn starch, clay slurries, and solutions of certain

surfactants. Most shear-thickening fluids tend to show shear-thinning at very low shear rates.

Shear Stress

Another important type of non-Newtonian fluid is a viscoplastic or yield stress fluid. This is a

fluid that will not flow when only a small shear stress is applied. The shear stress must exceed a

critical value known as the yield stress 0 for the fluid to flow. For example, when you open a

tube of toothpaste, it would be good if the paste does not flow at the application of the slightest

amount of shear stress. We need to apply an adequate force before the toothpaste will start

flowing. So, viscoplastic fluids behave like solids when the applied shear stress is less than the

yield stress. Once it exceeds the yield stress, the viscoplastic fluid will flow just like an ordinary

fluid. Bingham plastics are a special class of viscoplastic fluids that exhibit a linear behavior of

shear stress against shear rate. Typical viscoplastic behaviors are illustrated in the next figure.

viscoplastic fluids

Bingham Plastic

Shear Rate

Examples of viscoplastic fluids are drilling mud, nuclear fuel slurries, mayonnaise, toothpaste,

and blood. Also, some paints exhibit a yield stress.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive discussion of non-Newtonian behaviors. For instance, some

classes of fluids exhibit time-dependent behavior. This means that even under a given constant

shear rate, the viscosity may vary with time. The viscosity of a thixotropic liquid will decrease

with time under a constant applied shear stress. However, when the stress is removed, the

viscosity will gradually recover with time as well. Non-drip paints behave in this way. The

opposite behavior, wherein the fluid increases in viscosity with time when a constant shear stress

is applied is not as common, and such a fluid is called a rheopectic fluid.

Another important class of fluids exhibits viscoelastic behavior. This means that these fluids

behave both as solids (elastic) and fluids (viscous). Viscoelastic fluids exhibit strange

phenomena such as climbing up a rotating shaft, swelling when extruded out of a dye, etc. An

example of a common viscoelastic liquid is egg-white. You have probably noticed that when it

flows out of a container, you can use a quick jerking motion to snap it back into the container.

Several industrially important polymer melts and solutions are viscoelastic. You can learn more

about these and other behaviors from several fluid mechanics textbooks and from Perrys

Chemical Engineers Handbook. Also, you can visit some of the links on the course web page to

You-Tube videos in which non-Newtonian behavior is demonstrated.

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