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Smashing fluids: The physics of flow
Date:12/3/2010

The new findings will be highly useful to the manufacturing industry because the processing and dispensing of everyday products like toothpaste, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs depends on an understanding of the physical properties and behaviours of these fluids.

The research just published in Nature Communications by Dr Michael Smith from the School of Physics and Astronomy, with collaborators at the University of Edinburgh and Politecnico di Torino, has used new methods to try to understand the flow properties of these concentrated solutions of particles.

Previous research has tried to measure flow properties by pressing the fluid between two circular rotating plates, called a 'shear rheometer', but this has limited applications relating to industrial manufacturing processes.

The new experiments tested various complex fluids in a different way using an 'extensional rheometer'. Instead of squashing the substance, this device stretches it out between two plates at varying speeds to measure the flow properties. The method and the results gathered have revealed new physics which will have much better applications in manufacturing, for example, in the packaging and dispensing designs of many household products.

Dr Smith said: "Our observation of the fluid with a high speed camera revealed some intriguing effects depending on the concentration of particles and the speed at which the plates were moved. At low velocities the fluid is observed to behave like a liquid but at higher velocities and concentrations of particles the fluid can actually fracture like a solid. This happens if you dissolve a large amount of cornflour in some water, for example. The high concentration of tiny particles inside the fluid jam into one another forming clusters which lock solid if disturbed at a high enough speed.

"It is a bit like trying to move through a street crowded with an enormous number of people. If yo
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Contact: Emma Rayner
emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15793
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert  

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