Understanding the influence of nanoscale interactions on the macroscale rheological properties of complex fluids

Complex fluids containing suspensions of colloidal particles are critical to a wide variety of industrial processes in the petroleum industry, for well construction (drilling fluids, cements) and oil recovery.  This project combines experimental and modelling approaches to understanding the non-Newtonian rheological properties of these fluids.
Start date
4 years
Application deadline
Funding information

A stipend of £20,000 with all fees met separately.


Complex fluids containing suspensions of colloidal particles are critical to a wide variety of industrial processes. Such complex fluids are used extensively in the petroleum industry, for well construction (drilling fluids, cements) and oil recovery (aqueous polymer and surfactant solutions). Prediction and control of the non-Newtonian rheological properties of these fluids, such as gel strength and ability to suspend non-colloid particles, is essential for successful operations. These macroscopic rheological properties are governed by the nanoscale interactions between the colloidal particles that result in phenomena such as shear banding and viscoelasticity. These properties are challenging to measure in conventional rheometers and there is considerable industrial and academic interest in developing new characterisation methods. The aim of this project is to determine the microscopic length scales that control the macroscopic rheology using novel magnetic resonance imaging and optical light scattering techniques in combination with conventional tools. The connection between the measured length scales and macroscopic properties will be validated against existing models for non-Newtonian fluids and used to support new models being developed in parallel projects. Greater understanding of the hierarchy of relevant structural lengths from the nanoscale to the macroscale will enable the design of improved complex fluid formulations with predictable rheological properties.

Schlumberger is an oilfield services company with a global footprint. Activities at the Cambridge centre focus on the development of new science and technology for well construction, with an emphasis on drilling and automation. The facilities available for this proposed project include a suite of low field magnetic resonance instruments, microscopy (optical and X-ray) platforms, conventional rheometers, and hydrodynamic flow experiments. A unique low field magnetic resonance rheometer will be a core technology, enabling the spatial variation of shear stress and non-colloidal particle migration to be visualised within complex fluids. The project will be supervised by Dr Jonathan Mitchell (magnetic resonance) and Dr Andrew Clarke (nanoscience). Support for aspects of the project related to conventional rheology, fluid chemistry, and modelling/simulation will be provided by other scientists and engineers at Schlumberger Cambridge Research.

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Eligibility criteria

UK and EU students are invited to apply.

To be eligible for this studentship, you are required to have a First, 2:1 or merit in a masters degree in a physical sciences subject.

If English is not your first language you are required to have an IELTS of 6.5 or above. 

How to apply

Please contact Noelle Hartley, Centre Manager for the EPSRC CDT in MiNMaT to lodge an expression of interest in the studentship.

Contact details

Noelle Hartley
05 AB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 683467
E-mail: N.Hartley@surrey.ac.uk

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