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Rheology is the study of a fluid based response of a material to an applied force.

Extensional rheology is based on pulling on a piece of material in an extensional
manner instead of shearing. A good example of an extensional flow is stretching a
rubber band until it cannot be stretched any further whereas as shearing would
consist of laying the rubber band on a flat surface and sliding your hand over it
which will cause the rubber band to extend slightly then tumble and contract,
repeating the motion will repeat the flow adding complexity to the band.
This can also be applied to polymer materials. A polymer material composes of long
chains of a repeated hydrocarbon molecule. Due to the entangled nature of these
polymer chains, it is difficult to deform them by either shear or extension. Their
resistance to the deformation rate is known as viscosity.
Viscosity is the fundamental material parameter by which materials are
characterized. Usually, for most materials a simple rotational shearing flow
produces a rate-dependent shear viscosity. This level of characterization suffices for
most processes but in polymer processing operations the material undergoes a
complex flow history presenting both extensional and shear characteristics. This is
attributed to the long molecular chains in polymers as they are very flexible and can
extend, coil and entangle with neighboring polymer chains.
If a rotational shearing flow is applied to a polymer chain it will align 45 with the
flow, flip itself and coil repeatedly. When the coil is exposed to an extensional flow
the coil will extend axially and can be stretched fully if a strong enough flow is
applied. Therefore, the relationship between stress and deformation rate (strain
rate) in polymers is expressed by extensional viscosity independent of-and shear
An extensional rheology experiment is carried out at MIT which comprises of a small
polymer fluid solution between two circular endplates. The top plate moves upward
stretching the solution providing a strong extensional flow allowing to measure the
transient extensional viscosity but to due to the coiling effect of the rotational shear
flow on the polymer chains, pre-shearing of the fluid will impact the extensional
behavior of the fluid. To study this pre-shearing effect is the main objective of
As polymers cannot be characterized by a single material parameter the Newtonian
shear viscosity. Boger fluids will be used for the experiment since they have a
constant shear viscosity, they allow a direct comparison with Newtonian fluids with
similar viscosity and the difference in flowrates would indicate the changes induced
by the elasticity of the Boger liquid.
The SHERE hardware is part of the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) on the
international space station.

Why Microgravity?
Gravitys presence always influences an experiment in some way or the other, in
this case it introduces sagging of the thin fluid filaments especially at low
deformation rates. Removing gravity as a variable in the experiment allows for a
wider range of strain rates whilst simultaneously measuring total stress rates. These
measurements will serve as the ideal data set for ground-based extensional
The experiment
The fluid modules are stored at 20C. At the start of the experiment the fluid is
presheared and then stretched to 194mm in length and then tensile stress in the
fluid thread is allowed to relax. Then the fluid is allowed to drain to the end plates
as the filament breaks in the middle.
The key measurements

Force induced due to stretching and shearing of the elastic fluid

The position of the moving endplate.
The fluids diameter at midpoint.
The fluid filaments shape and evolution.

Understanding the extensional rheology of a liquid polymer is key for container less
processing because the absence of the bounding walls means no shearing. Thus the
flow is extensional in character. This is critical to the fabrication of parts using
polymer material on exploration missions and will also enable in-situ manufacturing
processes in microgravity or reduced gravity levels (e.g. Moon or Mars). These
elastomeric materials will be the basis for adhesives and fillers which can be utilized
for repair applications under a reduced gravity environment like repairing a space
As these polymer materials enable fabricating new parts they impact the weight
aspect of the spacecraft, one of the most important variable in determining the
feasibility of the space mission. They will also increase the longevity of a space
mission by enabling in-situ repair and maintenance of systems during transport and
while on Moon, Mars and other extraterrestrial bodies.
A deeper understanding of the extensional rheology of complex fluids also has a
major impact on Earth-based manufacturing processes. Improving the qualities of
adhesion materials and most importantly optimizing polymer process operations
that involve both shearing (rotation) and elongation (stretching) components.

Sridhar, T. and McKinley, G.H., Filament-Stretching Rheometry of Complex Fluids, Annual Reviews of Fluid
Mechanics, Annual Reviews Press, vol. 38, 2002. REV1.pdf (702 KB) Appendices.pdf (407 KB) Abstract

Oliveira, M.S.N., Yeh, R. and McKinley, G.H., Iterated Stretching, Extensional Rheology and Formation of Beads-
on-a-String Structures in Polymer Solutions, J. Non-Newt. Fluid Mech., (Special Issue on Extensional Flows),
(2006), 137, 137-148 GHM96.pdf (546KB) Abstract

Nielsen, J. K., Rasmussen, H.K., Hassager, O., McKinley, G.H., Elongational viscosity of monodisperse and
bidisperse polystyrene melts, J. Rheol., (2006), 50, 453-476. GHM94.pdf (1.88MB) Abstract

Tirtaatmadja, V., McKinley, G.H. and Cooper-White, J.J., Drop Formation and Breakup of Low Viscosity Elastic
Fluids: Effects of Concentration and Molecular Weight, Phys. Fluids, (2006), 18, 043101-
18 GHM89.pdf (999KB) Abstract

McKinley, G.H., Dimensionless Groups for Understanding Free Surface Flows of Complex Fluids, Soc. Rheol.
Bulletin, July (2005), 6-9. GHM84.pdf (899KB) Abstract

Szabo, P. and McKinley, G.H., Filament Stretching Rheometer: Inertia Compensation Revisited, Rheol.
Acta,42(3-4), (2003), 269-272. GHM66.pdf (147KB) Abstract
Rothstein, J.P. and McKinley, G.H., A Comparison of the Stress and Birefringence Growth in Dilute and
Concentrated Polymer Solutions in Uniaxial Extensional Flow, J. Non-Newt. Fluid Mech. , 108(1-3) (XIIth Int.
Workshop Special Issue), (2002), 275-290. GHM64.pdf (295KB) Abstract

Anna, S.L. and McKinley, G.H., Elasto-capillary Thinning and Breakup of Model Elastic Liquids, J. Rheol., 45(1),
(2001), 115-138. GHM49.pdf (338KB) Abstract

McKinley, G.H. and Tripathi, A., How to Extract the Newtonian Viscosity from Capillary Breakup Measurements
in a Filament Rheometer, J. Rheol., 44(3), (2000), 653-670. GHM45.pdf (210 KB)

Tripathi, A., Whittingstall, P. and McKinley, G.H., Using Filament Stretching Rheometry to Predict Strand
Formation and "Processability" in Adhesives and other Non-NewtonianFluids, Rheol. Acta.,39, (2000), 321-
337. GHM44.pdf (360 KB)