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Understanding Structured Fluids: An Integrated Approach for Novel Energy and Environmental Solutions

Mar 15

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Wednesday, March 15, 2023 - 9:00am to 10:00am


Michela Geri

Many industrial processes are governed by the flow and deformation of multiphase materials in which solid particles are dispersed or co-exists with a fluid phase, and therefore are referred to as structured fluids. Examples can be found in many industries, including food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical, but most importantly they are critical for the production and transport of energy materials. Examples include suspensions of energy carriers, printable slurries for coatings and batteries, and slurries for mining of minerals and metals. Many natural materials involved in environmental events also belong to the category of structured fluids: soil, mud and snow are just a few examples. Structured fluids often display a complex mechanical behavior that is characterized by features common to both fluids and solids, with material properties that can change over time due to thermodynamic, chemical or kinematic conditions. Our limited understanding of the behavior of structured fluids can lead to critical industrial challenges and prove environmentally disastrous, as in the case of clogged subsea pipelines or in landslides and avalanches. Such problems call for immediate solutions to measure and model the mechanical behavior of structured fluids, towards an improved understanding of this vast class of materials and corresponding processes and products. My research demonstrates that these challenges can be overcome by: (i) introducing novel experimental tools and protocols that allow us to study the mechanical and rheological response of structured fluids even when their behavior is rapidly changing, or mutating, in time; and (ii) rigorously setting theoretical frameworks that explain the experimental observations. In this talk, I will introduce an example of the integrated experimental and theoretical framework that can successfully capture the complex mechanical response of structured fluids. As I will demonstrate in my talk, this powerful approach not only improves our understanding, but also provides guidelines to develop superior materials for critical energy and environmental challenges.