Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Video of the Moment: MR Fluid in Action

How is this organic?

The Aptera company is looking for people to reserve their three-wheeled cars.  You can order a water bottle from them that is BPA-free and boasts "completely organic construction."


Is it organic in the chemical sense of the word because it's made of carbon chains, or is it organic because they did not use chemical-based fertilizers to make the product?  And if the material is not plastic but metal or something else, how is that organic?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


About 10 years ago, I heard about a project to put a rotational rheometer on the International Space Station.  The idea was to study the rheological performance of foams in zero g.  The idea is that the fluid in between the bubbles will not drain once the effect of gravity is removed.  The project has been approved, although I can't tell if the system has flown or experiments have been performed.
At the time, there were two questions I had about the project.  First, how do you keep the sample contained in zero g?  Fluids don't stay put but instead float around the cabin.  At the time I heard about the project, the only sealed cells that were available used mechanical bearings, which reduced the sensitivity of the measurement.  Second, as the amount of air is an issue in space, can one use an air bearing instrument?  It appears that these and other issues have been addressed, and I look forward to the publications on this project.
Does anyone know who built the rheometer?

(Picture of the rheometer chamber for FOAM.)

A Pointless Anecdote

About 10 years ago, I performed a rheometer demonstration in the vicinity of Augusta, GA at this time of year.  I remember three things from that trip.  First, a hotel room that normally went for $60 cost twice that amount.  Second, the TV in that expensive room did not work; the closed caption option was permanently turned on.  Finally, the car rental company had the largest collection of Jaguars I'd ever seen.  What was happening this time of year?  Here's the answer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Influential Books

A current meme in the blogosphere is that people post a list of most influential books [1].  I thought I'd join the parade.


Elements of Chemical Reactor Engineering (2nd edition, 1986) by H.S. Fogler
I thought this was the best-written engineering textbook I used during my undergrad years, and this book (along with the excellent professor I had for Reaction Engineering) inspired my choice for graduate school.  This book influenced me in another way: my father co-wrote some of the chapters, and the resulting royalties helped pay my undergrad tuition.  (When in graduate school, I decided to go into rheology, based on the choices that were available at Northwestern at the time.)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by R.Pirsig
One of my first encounters with the philosophy of science.  I particularly enjoyed Pirsig's take on hypothesis creation and his discussions of the concept of Quality.


Theory of Polymer Dynamics by M. Doi & S.F. Edwards
Constitutive Equations for Polymer Melts and Solutions by R.G. Larson
I wrote a thesis on analysis of polymer constitutive equations.  The research by these three gentlemen guided my path.

Dynamics of Polymeric Liquids: Volume 1 by R.B. Bird, R.C. Armstrong & O. Hassager
The best graduate-level textbook I used; it was a fantastic introduction to polymer fluid behavior.

Viscoelastic Properties of Polymers by J.D. Ferry
Not just a discussion of polymeric properties, but an introduction to rheological measurements and their interpretation.

Getting What You Came For by R.L. Peters
A how-to guide to graduate school.  Some of the technological systems suggested are out-of-date, but the basic advice here still holds.


The Rheology Handbook by T.G. Mezger
Herr Mezger was a colleague of mine while I was at Anton Paar, and he wrote this introduction to rheological measurements.  I think this is the best basic rheology book on the market.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by R. Rhodes
Not just the story of the Manhattan Project, but a great history of the experimental and theoretical work done on the atom at the beginning of the 20th Century.  If I were doing any teaching of chemistry or physics, I'd find a way to include this book in the class.  It's a geat summary of how people went about performing basic research.  It's a complete history, so it also discusses the effects of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by J. Diamond
A historical inquiry that asks the question why certain parts of the world have advanced technologically while others have remained static.  Diamond's thesis is that certain areas were advantaged by access to plants and animals that could be domesticated.  Once domestication took place, societies were able to develop, and technological innovation followed.

[1]     This list is amusing, as it has Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, and ... Spider-Man!  In this post, the Spider-Man writer thanks the blog author for being favorably compared to Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Video of the Moment: Shear-thinning and thixotropic behavior

I hadn't seen a demonstration like this before.

Found on YouTube using the keyword search "rheology" .  Posted by uwefg.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comment on Video of the Moment

For some reason, when this blog is viewed in Internet Explorer, the comment from this post is not visible.  I enjoyed the comment and reproduce it here.  John S. of the Rheo Thing blog posted it...

I found the speedskating comments fascinating. When I was in grad school at Illinois (Urbana), I speedskated for a few years. (In fact, the same coaches that got Bonnie Blair started also worked with me, proving that even a great coach can't make just anybody a great athlete.)

In contrast to hockey and figure skates (which are hollow ground), speedskates are flat ground. (Yes, this is completely contradictory to the predictions of the Clapyron equation - too bad for Benoit!) Part of learning how to skate was sharpening your own blades. You'd put the skate in a jig which held them parallel, and then use a large grounding stone to do both blades at the same time. Nip off the burr and you're done: a perfect 90 degree edge.

So now I'm wondering 1) how a superhydrophobic surface helps and 2) how you would sharpen the skate.

Regarding '1', it's quite obvious that the real physics of skating are still being discovered. Regarding '2', is the texturing applied with adhesive as a coating that is periodically replaced? If so, then speedskating has lost a grand tradition: noisily sharpening your skates in the hotel room at odd hours to wake up your competitors in the room next door!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Polls of March

Just a reminder; there are 16 days left to vote in this month's poll.

Update: fixed 2 typos.

Just Wondering...

Austria performed poorly in alpine skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics, winning "only" four medals.  The men were shut out of the medals, after taking 8 in Torino and 7 in Salt Lake City.  The rheometer shown in this video was manufactured in Graz, Austria by Anton Paar.  Would the Austrians like to take their instrument back?

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Canada's Medal Count Comparison

Medal counts at the Olympics are due to many factors: individual performances, location, etc.  Following up on the previous two posts, let's compare Canada's skiing, snowboarding, and speed skating medal count in the last two Winter Olympics.

2006 Torino

1 gold, 1 silver, and 1 4th-place in cross-country skiing
3 4th-place finishes in alpine skiing

1 bronze and 1 4th-place in snowboardcross

Speed Skating
3 silver, 2 bronze, and 2 4th-place finishes in short-track speed skating
2 gold, 4 silver, and 2 bronze in speed skating

Total top-4 finishes: 23

2010 Vancouver


1 4th-place in crosscountry skiing
1 gold and 1 4th-place in ski cross (new sport)

1 gold in snowboard slalom
1 gold and 1 silver in snowboardcross

Speed Skating
2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze, and 2 4th-place finishes in short-track speed skating
2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze, and 1 4th place finish in speed skating

Total top-4 finishes: 18

In terms of the finishes listed here, Canada did better at these speed sports in 2006.

Video of the Moment: Rheology at the Olympics

The video below shows Professor Hatzikirakos's lab at the University of British Columbia.  (It's the same lab that was referenced in this post

(The relevant video starts 15 seconds in.)

The video shows that rheology, and not just polymer science, was part of the research.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Link of the Moment: Polymer Science at the Olympics

This article in the Vancouver Sun discusses that some of Canada's "Own the Podium" program went for polymer science studies for a new ski and snowboard base.
...a water and snow-resistant plastic base for skis and snowboards. The plastic can reduce friction by up to 20 per cent, which could mean a one per cent reduction in time for an athlete.

Monday, March 8, 2010


One of my work colleagues gets calls from headhunters once a month or so.  She thinks that most of these people are getting her contact information from LinkedIn.
Has anyone benefited from being on LinkedIn?

High Viscosity

Colleen Putnam, in a December post originally found on Lifestyle and then cross-posted at Zimbio's rheology blog followed up on a money-saving discussion started at Consumer Reports.  The first CR article discussed how much of a commercial product could be left in a container.  The second article described how to pull the remaining product out of the container.
Colleen identified a rheological theme among the commercial products--
The science of rheology, the study of flow, explains how thick, gooey things move differently than smooth watery things. It's a physicist thing. For the non-Newton layperson, it explains why the toothpaste tube, lotion dispenser, and ketchup bottle always have product left at the end that never seems to want to come out. 
As I thought about this comment, something started to bug me.  The main issues with the products (skin lotion, laundry detergent, condiments, and toothpaste) is not how they flow, but how they don't appear to flow.  Simply put, the viscosity of these materials is high.  That is why these materials stay in their respective containers.  Any non-Newtonian flow properties (pseudoplasticity, thixotropy) aren't as important as the viscosity at low shear rates.  For more evidence of this, just see to remove the product from the containers: dilution.  Add the appropriate solvent, reduce the viscosity, and you're on your way to saving money.

Surely You're Joking (#4)

Another in the continuing series of t-shirt ideas...

Non-newtonian fluid mechanics is the only rheol science.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jobs Report (March)

On March 1st, a keyword search rheolog* on showed 45 jobs available.  This is one more job than last month.  Data from the previous 6 months were shown in February.  Jobs are available in the following industries...

  1. Medical devices (20)
  2. Manufacturing (9)
  3. Chemicals/Petroleum (6)
  4. Biotechnology (4)
  5. Engineering Services (3)
  6. Consumer Packaging (3)
  7. Staffing Company (1)
  8. Other (1)  --> this is a "confidential" company
  9. Management Consulting (1)
  10. Food / Beverage (1)
  11. Automotive parts (1)
  12. Internet services (1) --> this is a staffing company, as well
  13. Healthcare (1)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Poll of the Month (March)

I last tried this when it was just me and a few Google bots reading the blog, and I'm interested in the to see what the results will be.  For this month, what rheometer type is in your lab?  Multiple answers are allowed.  The poll will run for the month of March