Rheological and rheo-birefringence features of semidilute ethyl cellulose dispersions under steady shear flow†
We have conducted comprehensive rheological and rheo-birefringence characterizations of a series of semidilute ethyl cellulose (EC)/α-terpineol dispersions under steady shear flow. The EC dispersions investigated have commonly been utilized as a binder agent in fabricating metal/metal-oxide pastes for a number of industrial applications, and were recently demonstrated to foster nearly monodisperse spherical aggregates under dilute conditions. Herein, semidilute EC dispersions are shown to exhibit rheological features practically no different from those known for standard entangled polymer solutions. The corresponding rheo-birefringence responses, however, reveal microstructural features that are reminiscent of general colloidal systems. The steady-state feature reveals a universal stress-birefringence relationship at various EC concentrations, along with a common critical stress (∼200 Pa) at which the EC network breaks into smaller clusters. The transient feature displays prominent and long-persisting periodic oscillations that have previously been observed only for nearly monodisperse rod-like colloids or liquid crystals. The overall findings shed new light on the role of EC serving as a commonplace polymer binder in industry and, from a scientific perspective, raise interesting questions related to the characteristic rheological and microstructural features of general polymer dispersions in overlapped regimes.