Shear thickening in concentrated suspensions of smooth spheres in Newtonian suspending fluids
Shear thickening is a phenomenon in which the viscosity of a suspension increases with increasing stress or shear rate, sometimes in a discontinuous fashion. While the phenomenon, when observed in suspensions of corn starch in water, or Oobleck, is popular as a science experiment for children, shear thickening is actually of considerable importance for technological applications and exhibited by far simpler systems. Concentrated suspensions of smooth hard spheres will exhibit shear thickening, and understanding this behavior has required a fundamental change in the paradigm of describing low-Reynolds-number solid–fluid flows, in which contact forces have traditionally been absent. Here, we provide an overview of our understanding of shear thickening and the methods that have been developed to describe it, as well as outstanding questions.