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Connecting Particle Interactions to Agglomerate Morphology and Rheology of Boehmite Nanocrystal Suspensions



J. S. Weston, J. Chun, G. Schenter, Kathleen Weigandt, M. Zong, X. Zhang, K. M. Rosso, L. M. Anovitz


Hypothesis: The rheology of complex suspensions, such as nuclear waste slurries at the Hanford and Savannah River sites, imposes significant challenges on industrial-scale processing. Investigating the rheology and connecting it to the agglomerate morphology and underlying particle interactions in slurries will provide important fundamental knowledge, as well as prescriptive data for practical applications. Here, we use suspensions of nano-scale aluminum oxyhydroxide minerals in the form of boehmite as an analog of the radioactive waste slurry to investigate the correlation between particle interactions, agglomerate morphology, and slurry rheology. Experiments: A combination of Couette rheometry and small-angle scattering techniques (independently and simultaneously) to understand how agglomerate structure of slurry changes under flow and how these structural changes manifest themselves in the bulk rheology of the suspensions. Findings: Our experiments show that the boehmite slurries are thixotropic, with the rheology and structure of the suspensions changing with increasing exposure to flow. In the slurries, particle agglomerates begin as loose, system-spanning clusters, but exposure to moderate shear rates causes the agglomerates to irreversibly consolidate into denser clusters of finite size. The structural changes directly influence the rheological properties of the slurries such as viscosity and viscoelasticity. Our study shows that solution pH affects the amount of structural rearrangement and the kinetics of the rearrangement process, with an increase in pH leading to faster and more dramatic changes in the bulk rheology, which can be understood via correlations between particle interactions and the strength of particle network Nearly identical structural changes are also observed in Poiseuille flow geometries, implying that the observed changes are relevant in pipe flow, as well.
Journal of Colloid and Interface Science


Rheology, USANS, Boehmite, Suspension


Weston, J. , Chun, J. , Schenter, G. , Weigandt, K. , Zong, M. , Zhang, X. , Rosso, K. and Anovitz, L. (2020), Connecting Particle Interactions to Agglomerate Morphology and Rheology of Boehmite Nanocrystal Suspensions, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, [online], (Accessed April 19, 2024)
Created July 14, 2020, Updated October 12, 2021