Confined Flow of Attractive Colloidal Suspensions
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Attractive particulate fluids flowing through complex confined geometries are frequently used in technological applications. While the flow properties of hard-sphere suspensions in micro-scale geometries have been studied extensively, the effects of interparticle attractions and particle size dispersity on the confined flow properties of particulate suspensions are not well understood. We used confocal microscopy, particle tracking, and bulk rheology to study the confined structure, dynamics, and flow properties of colloid-polymer mixtures, which serve as simple models of attractive particulate suspensions. We employed poly(methyl-methacrylate) spheres that were suspended in a refractive-index and density- matched solvent, and induced a controlled short-range depletion attraction between particles by adding non-absorbing linear polystyrene. First, we investigated the effects of particle size dispersity on confinement-induced solidification of colloid-polymer mixtures. We formulated mixtures of polymer and bidispersed colloids with particle size ratio aS/aL ≈ 0.49 at a constant total volume fraction T and measured the dynamics of the large particles as a function of the volume fraction of large particles. The dynamics of large particles became slower as the volume fraction of large particles r=L/T was decreased or the confinement thickness was decreased, indicating increasingly solid-like behavior. Second, we investigated the effects of variation in particle size dispersity r on the rheology and microstructure of mixtures of polymer and bidispersed colloids. Significant changes in rheology and microstructure were observed only at high volume fractions of large particles. By contrast, dense suspensions T = 0.40 were strong gels at all concentration of large particles and exhibited only modest rheological and microstructural changes. Finally, we investigated the effects of variation in interparticle attractions on the microchannel flow of colloid-polymer mixtures. In suspensions with weak interparticle attractions, the number density of particles increased downstream in the channel due to shear-induced migration and consolidation by compression. In suspensions with stronger interparticle attractions, an interconnected network of particles suppressed these mechanisms and prevented the increase in density downstream. Together, our results indicate that the confined structure, dynamics, and flow properties of attractive colloidal suspensions can be controllably tuned from fluid-like to solid-like by varying the interparticle attractions and the particle size dispersity.