Gel breakdown in a formulated product via accumulated strain†
Almost any formulated product is sufficiently complex that definitive elucidation of all interactions and microstructural evolutions is difficult at best and more likely intractable. Drilling fluids are no exception. Nevertheless, detailed experiment and comparison with simpler systems studied in the literature enable rational pictures to be deduced. We study the breakdown of a gelled formulated product, a drilling fluid, under the action of repeated deformation, i.e. weakly nonlinear oscillation. Our data may be rationalised by postulating that the fluid behaves as an arrested phase separating material whose natural slow structural evolution, aging and coarsening, is accelerated by the imposed sinusoidal strain consistent with previous work on well characterised systems. During the observed evolution the elastic modulus exhibits a maximum which appears correlated with a maximal connected heterogeneity of structure.