Stress localization, stiffening, and yielding in a model colloidal gel

J Colombo and E Del Gado, JOURNAL OF RHEOLOGY, 58, 1089-1116 (2014).

DOI: 10.1122/1.4882021

We use numerical simulations and an athermal quasistatic shear protocol to investigate the yielding of a model colloidal gel. Under increasing deformation, the elastic regime is followed by a significant stiffening before yielding takes place. A space-resolved analysis of deformations and stresses unravel how the complex load curve observed is the result of stress localization and that the yielding can take place by breaking a very small fraction of the network connections. The stiffening corresponds to the stretching of the network chains, unbent, and aligned along the direction of maximum extension. It is characterized by a strong localization of tensile stresses that triggers the breaking of a few network nodes at around 30% of strain. Increasing deformation favors further breaking but also shear-induced bonding, eventually leading to a large-scale reorganization of the gel structure at the yielding. At low enough shear rates, density and velocity profiles display significant spatial inhomogeneity during yielding in agreement with experimental observations. (C) 2014 The Society of Rheology.

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