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Journal Articles Tectonophysics Year : 2015

Characterization of Carbopol® hydrogel rheology for experimental tectonics and geodynamics

F. Corbi
  • Function : Author
F. Funiciello
  • Function : Author
A. Massmeyer
  • Function : Author
T. N. Santimano
  • Function : Author
M. Rosenau
  • Function : Author
A. Davaille


One of the long-standing challenges of modern tectonics and geodynamics is to fully understand the strong strain localization and its effects observed in the lithosphere, which presents viscous, as well as elastic and brittle properties. Recently yield stress-shear thinning hydrogels, such as Carbopol®, have been employed in analog modeling because of its great potential for mimicking the non-Newtonian behavior of rocks. Conversely its use has been limited by the difficulties in assessing its rheology and in preparing uniform samples. Ergo, it is essential to ensure a standard recipe, yielding to a reproducible behavior, no matter which rheometer model is used. We carried out, at four institutions (FAST, GFZ, IPGP and LET), a benchmark for developing a standard preparation and for testing the comparability of results. Then, we conducted a systematical rheological characterization of a wide range of Carbopol® formulas as a function of concentration, composition, pH, temperature and aging. Results show that neutral pH favors higher viscosity. The shear modulus, yield stress, viscosity, and shear thinning behavior increase with concentration. The linear viscoelastic range increases with concentration contrarily to what is observed in gelatins or colloidal suspensions. A weak inverse relationship between temperature and viscosity is found. Similarly, aging reduces both the viscosity and loss modulus, with reduction more evident for low concentration samples. Scaling analysis revealed that low concentration samples, i.e. < 0.1 wt.%, exhibiting shear thinning behavior and low yield stress, are appropriate to model the rising of thermal instabilities. Those at 0.5-1.0 wt.%, showing yield stress in the order of hundreds of Pa and n ranging between 1.6 and 3.4 are good candidates to mimic the non-linear ductile behavior of crustal rocks. We conclude that tuning the visco-elasto-plastic rheology of Carbopol® would make this material a good candidate for modeling of also other geological processes.

Dates and versions

insu-03580017 , version 1 (18-02-2022)



E. Di Giuseppe, F. Corbi, F. Funiciello, A. Massmeyer, T. N. Santimano, et al.. Characterization of Carbopol® hydrogel rheology for experimental tectonics and geodynamics. Tectonophysics, 2015, 642, pp.29-45. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2014.12.005⟩. ⟨insu-03580017⟩
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