Elasticity and yielding of a calcite paste: scaling laws in a dense colloidal suspension
We address the mechanical characterization of a calcite paste as a model system to investigate the relation between the microstructure and macroscopic behavior of colloidal suspensions. The ultimate goal is to achieve control of the elastic and yielding properties of calcite which will prove valuable in several domains, from paper coating to paint manufacture and eventually in the comprehension and control of the mechanical properties of carbonate rocks. Rheological measurements have been performed on calcite suspensions over a wide range of particle concentrations. The calcite paste exhibits a typical colloidal gel behavior, with an elastic regime and a clear yield strain above which it enters a plastic regime. The yield strain shows a minimum when increasing the solid concentration, connected to a change in the power law scaling of the storage modulus. In the framework of the classical fractal elasticity model for colloidal suspensions proposed by Shih et al. [Phys. Rev. A, 1990, 42, 4772], we interpret this behavior as a switch with the concentration from the strong-link regime to the weak-link regime, which had never been observed so far in one well-defined system without external or chemical forcing.