Industrial formulations very often involve particles with a broad range of surface characteristics and size distributions. Particle surface asperities (roughness) and porosity increase particle specific surface area and significantly alter suspension rheology, which can be detrimental to the quality of the end product. We examine the rheological properties of two types of non-Brownian, commercial precipitated silicas, with varying specific surface area, namely PS52 and PS226, suspended in a non-aqueous solvent, glycerol, and compare them against those of glass sphere suspensions (GS2) with a similar size distribution. A non-monotonic effect of the specific surface area (
) on suspension rheology is observed, whereby PS52 particles in glycerol are found to exhibit strong shear thinning response, whereas such response is suppressed for glass sphere and PS226 particle suspensions. This behaviour is attributed to the competing mechanisms of particle–particle and particle–solvent interactions. In particular, increasing the specific surface area beyond a certain value results in the repulsive interparticle hydration forces (solvation forces) induced by glycerol overcoming particle frictional contacts and suppressing shear thinning; this is evidenced by the response of the highest specific surface area particles PS226. The study demonstrates the potential of using particle specific surface area as a means to tune the rheology of non-Brownian silica particle suspensions.
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