Thixotropy is a time-dependent shear thinning property. Certain gels or fluids that are thick or viscous under static conditions will flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, sheared or otherwise stressed (time dependent viscosity). They then take a fixed time to return to a more viscous state.[1] Some non-Newtonian pseudoplastic fluids show a time-dependent change in viscosity; the longer the fluid undergoes shear stress, the lower its viscosity. A thixotropic fluid is a fluid which takes a finite time to attain equilibrium viscosity when introduced to a steep change in shear rate. Some thixotropic fluids return to a gel state almost instantly, such as ketchup, and are called pseudoplastic fluids. Others such as yogurt take much longer and can become nearly solid. Many gels and colloids are thixotropic materials, exhibiting a stable form at rest but becoming fluid when agitated. Thixotropy arises because particles or structured solutes require time to organize. An excellent overview of thixotropy has been provided by Mewis and Wagner.[2]

Some fluids are anti-thixotropic: constant shear stress for a time causes an increase in viscosity or even solidification. Fluids which exhibit this property are sometimes called rheopectic. Anti-thixotropic fluids are less well documented than thixotropic fluids.[2]

Heinz USDA Organic Tomato Ketchup
Tomato ketchup is a classic example of a thixotropic material.

Natural examples

Some clays are thixotropic, with their behavior of great importance in structural and geotechnical engineering. Landslides, such as those common in the cliffs around Lyme Regis, Dorset and in the Aberfan spoil tip disaster in Wales are evidence of this phenomenon. Similarly, a lahar is a mass of earth liquefied by a volcanic event, which rapidly solidifies once coming to rest.

Drilling muds used in geotechnical applications can be thixotropic. Honey from honey bees may also exhibit this property under certain conditions (such as heather honey or mānuka honey).

Both cytoplasm and the ground substance in the human body are thixotropic, as is semen.[3]

Some clay deposits found in the process of exploring caves exhibit thixotropism: an initially solid-seeming mudbank will turn soupy and yield up moisture when dug into or otherwise disturbed. These clays were deposited in the past by low-velocity streams which tend to deposit fine-grained sediment.

A thixotropic fluid is best visualised by an oar blade embedded in mud. Pressure on the oar often results in a highly viscous (more solid) thixotropic mud on the high pressure side of the blade, and low viscosity (very fluid) thixotropic mud on the low pressure side of the oar blade. Flow from the high pressure side to the low pressure side of the oar blade is non-Newtonian. (i.e.: fluid velocity is not linearly proportional to the square root of the pressure differential over the oar blade).


Many kinds of paints and inks—e.g. plastisols used in silkscreen textile printing—exhibit thixotropic qualities.[4] In many cases it is desirable for the fluid to flow sufficiently to form a uniform layer, then to resist further flow, thereby preventing sagging on a vertical surface. Some other inks, such as those used in CMYK-type process printing, are designed to regain viscosity even faster, once they are applied, in order to protect the structure of the dots for accurate color reproduction.

Thixotropic ink (along with a gas pressurized cartridge and special shearing ball design) is a key feature of the Fisher Space Pen, used for writing during zero gravity space flights by the US and Russian space programs.

Solder pastes used in electronics manufacturing printing processes are thixotropic.

Thread-locking fluid is a thixotropic adhesive that cures anaerobically.

Thixotropy has been proposed as a scientific explanation of blood liquefaction miracles such as that of Saint Januarius in Naples.[5]

Semi-solid casting processes such as thixomoulding use the thixotropic property of some alloys (mostly light metals) (bismuth). Within certain temperature ranges, with appropriate preparation, an alloy can be put into a semi-solid state, which can be injected with less shrinkage and better overall properties than by normal injection molding.

Fumed silica is commonly used as a rheology agent to make otherwise low-viscous fluids thixotropic. Examples range from foods to epoxy resin in structural bonding applications like fillet joints.


The word comes from Ancient Greek θίξις thixis "touch" (from thinganein "to touch") and -tropy, -tropous, from Ancient Greek -τρόπος -tropos "of turning", from τρόπος tropos "a turn", from τρέπειν trepein, "to turn". It was invented by Herbert Freundlich originally for a sol-gel transformation.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Morrison, Ian (2003). "Dispersions". Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Kirk-Othmer encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. doi:10.1002/0471238961.0409191613151818.a01. ISBN 978-0471238966.
  2. ^ a b Mewis, J; Wagner, N J (2009). "Thixotropy". Advances in Colloid and Interface Science. 147-148: 214–227. doi:10.1016/j.cis.2008.09.005. PMID 19012872.
  3. ^ Hendrickson, T: "Massage for Orthopedic Conditions", page 9. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.
  4. ^ Köhler, Klaus; Simmendinger, Peter; Roelle, Wolfgang; Scholz, Wilfried; Valet, Andreas; Slongo, Mario (2010). "Paints and Coatings, 4. Pigments, Extenders, and Additives". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Ullmann's Encyclopedia Of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.o18_o03. ISBN 978-3527306732.
  5. ^ Garlaschelli, L; Ramaccini, F; Della Scala, S (1994). "The Blood of St. Januarius". Chemistry in Britain. 30 (2): 123.}
  6. ^ Reiner, M; Scott Blair, G W (1967) in Eich, F. R., (ed) Rheology, Theory and Applications Vol 4 p 465 (Academic Press, NY)

External links

  • The dictionary definition of thixotropy at Wiktionary

A borehole is a narrow shaft bored in the ground, either vertically or horizontally. A borehole may be constructed for many different purposes, including the extraction of water, other liquids (such as petroleum) or gases (such as natural gas), as part of a geotechnical investigation, environmental site assessment, mineral exploration, temperature measurement, as a pilot hole for installing piers or underground utilities, for geothermal installations, or for underground storage of unwanted substances, e.g. in carbon capture and storage.


Clay is a finely-grained natural rock or soil material that combines one or more clay minerals with possible traces of quartz (SiO2), metal oxides (Al2O3 , MgO etc.) and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure. Clays are plastic due to particle size and geometry as well as water content, and become hard, brittle and non–plastic upon drying or firing. Depending on the soil's content in which it is found, clay can appear in various colours from white to dull grey or brown to deep orange-red.

Although many naturally occurring deposits include both silts and clay, clays are distinguished from other fine-grained soils by differences in size and mineralogy. Silts, which are fine-grained soils that do not include clay minerals, tend to have larger particle sizes than clays. There is, however, some overlap in particle size and other physical properties. The distinction between silt and clay varies by discipline. Geologists and soil scientists usually consider the separation to occur at a particle size of 2 µm (clays being finer than silts), sedimentologists often use 4–5 μm, and colloid chemists use 1 μm. Geotechnical engineers distinguish between silts and clays based on the plasticity properties of the soil, as measured by the soils' Atterberg limits. ISO 14688 grades clay particles as being smaller than 2 μm and silt particles as being larger.

Mixtures of sand, silt and less than 40% clay are called loam. Loam makes good soil and is used as a building material.

Creaming (chemistry)

Creaming, in the laboratory sense, is the migration of the dispersed phase of an emulsion, under the influence of buoyancy. The particles float upwards or sink, depending on how large they are and how much less dense or more dense they may be than the continuous phase, and also how viscous or how thixotropic the continuous phase might be. For as long as the particles remain separated, the process is called creaming.

Where it is important that either the form or the concentration of the emulsion should be stable, it is desirable that the continuous and the dispersed phases should have similar densities, and it also is desirable that the continuous phase should be viscous or thixotropic. Thixotropy is particularly valuable in paints, sauces, and similar products, partly because it counteracts tendencies towards creaming. It also is important that the particles be as small as practicable because that reduces their tendency to migrate under the influence of buoyant forces. The electric charges on their surfaces should preferably tend to be uniform, so that the particles repel rather than attract each other.

Creaming is usually seen as undesirable because it causes difficulties in storage and handling, but it can be useful in special cases, especially where it is desirable to concentrate an emulsion. A particular example is in the separation of dairy cream, either to achieve a desired concentration of butterfat, or to make butter.

Depending on whether the dispersed particles are less dense or more dense than the continuous phase, they may move either to the top of a sample, or to the bottom. As already stated, the process of migration is called creaming while the particles of the substance remain separated. In this it differs ideally from flocculation (where particles clump) or emulsion breaking (where particles coalesce). One important difference between creaming and the other two processes; unlike flocculation and breaking, creaming of an emulsion is largely a simple process to reverse.


Gravel is a loose aggregation of rock fragments. Gravel is classified by particle size range and includes size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments. In the Udden-Wentworth scale gravel is categorized into granular gravel (2 to 4 mm or 0.079 to 0.157 in) and pebble gravel (4 to 64 mm or 0.2 to 2.5 in). ISO 14688 grades gravels as fine, medium, and coarse with ranges 2 mm to 6.3 mm to 20 mm to 63 mm. One cubic metre of gravel typically weighs about 1,800 kg (or a cubic yard weighs about 3,000 pounds).

Gravel is an important commercial product, with a number of applications. Many roadways are surfaced with gravel, especially in rural areas where there is little traffic. Globally, far more roads are surfaced with gravel than with concrete or asphalt; Russia alone has over 400,000 km (250,000 mi) of gravel roads. Both sand and small gravel are also important for the manufacture of concrete.

Index of soil-related articles

This is an index of articles relating to soil.


Nanocellulose is a term referring to nano-structured cellulose. This may be either cellulose nanocrystal (CNC or NCC), cellulose nanofibers (CNF) also called nanofibrillated cellulose (MFC), or bacterial nanocellulose, which refers to nano-structured cellulose produced by bacteria.

CNF is a material composed of nanosized cellulose fibrils with a high aspect ratio (length to width ratio). Typical fibril widths are 5–20 nanometers with a wide range of lengths, typically several micrometers. It is pseudo-plastic and exhibits thixotropy, the property of certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under normal conditions, but become less viscous when shaken or agitated. When the shearing forces are removed the gel regains much of its original state. The fibrils are isolated from any cellulose containing source including wood-based fibers (pulp fibers) through high-pressure, high temperature and high velocity impact homogenization, grinding or microfluidization (see manufacture below).

Nanocellulose can also be obtained from native fibers by an acid hydrolysis, giving rise to highly crystalline and rigid nanoparticles which are shorter (100s to 1000 nanometers) than the nanofibrils obtained through homogenization, microfluiodization or grinding routes. The resulting material is known as cellulose nanocrystal (CNC).

Natchez silt loam

In 1988, the Professional Soil Classifiers Association of Mississippi selected Natchez silt loam soil to represent the soil resources of the State. These soils exist on 171,559 acres (0.56% of state) of landscape in Mississippi.

Non-Newtonian fluid

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid that does not follow Newton's law of viscosity, i.e., constant viscosity independent of stress. In non-Newtonian fluids, viscosity can change when under force to either more liquid or more solid. Ketchup, for example, becomes runnier when shaken and is thus a non-Newtonian fluid. Many salt solutions and molten polymers are non-Newtonian fluids, as are many commonly found substances such as custard, honey, toothpaste, starch suspensions, corn starch, paint, blood, and shampoo.

Most commonly, the viscosity (the gradual deformation by shear or tensile stresses) of non-Newtonian fluids is dependent on shear rate or shear rate history. Some non-Newtonian fluids with shear-independent viscosity, however, still exhibit normal stress-differences or other non-Newtonian behavior. In a Newtonian fluid, the relation between the shear stress and the shear rate is linear, passing through the origin, the constant of proportionality being the coefficient of viscosity. In a non-Newtonian fluid, the relation between the shear stress and the shear rate is different. The fluid can even exhibit time-dependent viscosity. Therefore, a constant coefficient of viscosity cannot be defined.

Although the concept of viscosity is commonly used in fluid mechanics to characterize the shear properties of a fluid, it can be inadequate to describe non-Newtonian fluids. They are best studied through several other rheological properties that relate stress and strain rate tensors under many different flow conditions—such as oscillatory shear or extensional flow—which are measured using different devices or rheometers. The properties are better studied using tensor-valued constitutive equations, which are common in the field of continuum mechanics.


Rheology (; from Greek ῥέω rhéō, "flow" and -λoγία, -logia, "study of") is the study of the flow of matter, primarily in a liquid state, but also as "soft solids" or solids under conditions in which they respond with plastic flow rather than deforming elastically in response to an applied force. Rheology is the science of deformation and flow within a material. It is a branch of physics which deals with the deformation and flow of materials, both solids and liquids.The term rheology was coined by Eugene C. Bingham, a professor at Lafayette College, in 1920, from a suggestion by a colleague, Markus Reiner. The term was inspired by the aphorism of Simplicius (often attributed to Heraclitus), panta rhei, "everything flows", and was first used to describe the flow of liquids and the deformation of solids.

It applies to substances that have a complex microstructure, such as muds, sludges, suspensions, polymers and other glass formers (e.g., silicates), as well as many foods and additives, bodily fluids (e.g., blood) and other biological materials, and other materials that belong to the class of soft matter such as food.

Newtonian fluids can be characterized by a single coefficient of viscosity for a specific temperature. Although this viscosity will change with temperature, it does not change with the strain rate. Only a small group of fluids exhibit such constant viscosity. The large class of fluids whose viscosity changes with the strain rate (the relative flow velocity) are called non-Newtonian fluids.

Rheology generally accounts for the behavior of non-Newtonian fluids, by characterizing the minimum number of functions that are needed to relate stresses with rate of change of strain or strain rates. For example, ketchup can have its viscosity reduced by shaking (or other forms of mechanical agitation, where the relative movement of different layers in the material actually causes the reduction in viscosity) but water cannot. Ketchup is a shear-thinning material, like yogurt and emulsion paint (US terminology latex paint or acrylic paint), exhibiting thixotropy, where an increase in relative flow velocity will cause a reduction in viscosity, for example, by stirring. Some other non-Newtonian materials show the opposite behavior, rheopecty: viscosity increasing with relative deformation, and are called shear-thickening or dilatant materials. Since Sir Isaac Newton originated the concept of viscosity, the study of liquids with strain-rate-dependent viscosity is also often called Non-Newtonian fluid mechanics.The experimental characterisation of a material's rheological behaviour is known as rheometry, although the term rheology is frequently used synonymously with rheometry, particularly by experimentalists. Theoretical aspects of rheology are the relation of the flow/deformation behaviour of material and its internal structure (e.g., the orientation and elongation of polymer molecules), and the flow/deformation behaviour of materials that cannot be described by classical fluid mechanics or elasticity.


Rheopecty or rheopexy is the rare property of some non-Newtonian fluids to show a time-dependent increase in viscosity (time-dependent viscosity); the longer the fluid undergoes shearing force, the higher its viscosity. Rheopectic fluids, such as some lubricants, thicken or solidify when shaken. The opposite and much more common type of behaviour, in which fluids become less viscous the longer they undergo shear, is called thixotropy.

Examples of rheopectic fluids include gypsum pastes and printer inks. In the body synovial fluid exhibits the extraordinary property of inverse thixotropy or rheopexy.There is ongoing research into new ways to make and use rheopectic materials. There is great interest in possible military uses of this technology. Moreover, the high end of the sports market has also begun to respond to it. Body armor and combat vehicle armor are key areas where efforts are being made to use rheopectic materials. Work is also being done to use these materials in other kinds of protective equipment, which is seen as potentially useful to reduce apparent impact stress in athletics, motor sports, transportation accidents, and all forms of parachuting. In particular, footwear with rheopectic shock absorption is being pursued as a dual-use technology that can provide better support to those who must frequently run, leap, climb, or descend.


Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. It is defined by size, being finer than gravel and coarser than silt. Sand can also refer to a textural class of soil or soil type; i.e., a soil containing more than 85 percent sand-sized particles by mass.The composition of sand varies, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz. The second most common type of sand is calcium carbonate, for example, aragonite, which has mostly been created, over the past half billion years, by various forms of life, like coral and shellfish. For example, it is the primary form of sand apparent in areas where reefs have dominated the ecosystem for millions of years like the Caribbean.

Sand is a non-renewable resource over human timescales, and sand suitable for making concrete is in high demand. Desert sand, although plentiful, is not suitable for concrete. 50 billion tons of beach sand and fossil sand is used each year for construction.

Semi-solid metal casting

Semi-solid metal casting (SSM) is a near net shape variant of die casting. The process is used with non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium, copper, and magnesium. The process combines the advantages of casting and forging. The process is named after the fluid property thixotropy, which is the phenomenon that allows this process to work. Simply, thixotropic fluids flow when sheared, but thicken when standing. The potential for this type of process was first recognized in the early 1970s. There are four different processes: thixocasting, rheocasting, thixomolding, and SIMA.

SSM is done at a temperature that puts the metal between its liquidus and solidus temperature. Ideally, the metal should be 30 to 65% solid. The metal must have a low viscosity to be usable, and to reach this low viscosity the material needs a globular primary surrounded by the liquid phase. The temperature range possible depends on the material and for aluminum alloys is 5–10 °C, but for narrow melting range copper alloys can be only several tenths of a degree.Semi-solid casting is typically used for high-end castings. For aluminum alloys, typical parts include engine mounts, air manifold sensor harnesses, engine blocks, and oil pump filter housings.

Shear thinning

In rheology, shear thinning is the non-Newtonian behavior of fluids whose viscosity decreases under shear strain. It is sometimes considered synonymous for pseudoplastic behaviour, and is usually defined as excluding time-dependent effects, such as thixotropy. Shear-thinning behaviour is generally not seen in pure liquids with low molecular mass, or ideal solutions of small molecules like sucrose or sodium chloride, but is often seen in polymer solutions and molten polymers, and complex fluids and suspensions like ketchup, whipped cream, blood, paint, and nail polish.


Silt is granular material of a size between sand and clay, whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil (often mixed with sand or clay) or as sediment mixed in suspension with water (also known as a suspended load) and soil in a body of water such as a river. It may also exist as soil deposited at the bottom of a water body, like mudflows from landslides. Silt has a moderate specific area with a typically non-sticky, plastic feel. Silt usually has a floury feel when dry, and a slippery feel when wet. Silt can be visually observed with a hand lens, exhibiting a sparkly appearance. It also can be felt by the tongue as granular when placed on the front teeth (even when mixed with clay particles).

Soil liquefaction

Soil liquefaction occurs when a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress such as shaking during an earthquake or other sudden change in stress condition, in which material that is ordinarily a solid behaves like a liquid.

In soil mechanics, the term "liquefied" was first used by Allen Hazen in reference to the 1918 failure of the Calaveras Dam in California. He described the mechanism of flow liquefaction of the embankment dam as:

If the pressure of the water in the pores is great enough to carry all the load, it will have the effect of holding the particles apart and of producing a condition that is practically equivalent to that of quicksand… the initial movement of some part of the material might result in accumulating pressure, first on one point, and then on another, successively, as the early points of concentration were liquefied.

The phenomenon is most often observed in saturated, loose (low density or uncompacted), sandy soils. This is because a loose sand has a tendency to compress when a load is applied. Dense sands, by contrast, tend to expand in volume or 'dilate'. If the soil is saturated by water, a condition that often exists when the soil is below the water table or sea level, then water fills the gaps between soil grains ('pore spaces'). In response to soil compressing, the pore water pressure increases and the water attempts to flow out from the soil to zones of low pressure (usually upward towards the ground surface). However, if the loading is rapidly applied and large enough, or is repeated many times (e.g. earthquake shaking, storm wave loading) such that the water does not flow out before the next cycle of load is applied, the water pressures may build to the extent that it exceeds the force (contact stresses) between the grains of soil that keep them in contact. These contacts between grains are the means by which the weight from buildings and overlying soil layers is transferred from the ground surface to layers of soil or rock at greater depths. This loss of soil structure causes it to lose its strength (the ability to transfer shear stress), and it may be observed to flow like a liquid (hence 'liquefaction').

Although the effects of liquefaction have been long understood, engineers took more notice after the 1964 Niigata earthquake and 1964 Alaska earthquake. It was a major factor in the destruction in San Francisco's Marina District during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and in Port of Kobe during the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake. More recently liquefaction was largely responsible for extensive damage to residential properties in the eastern suburbs and satellite townships of Christchurch, New Zealand during the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and more extensively again following the Christchurch earthquakes that followed in early and mid-2011. On 28 September 2018, an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude hit the Central Sulawesi province of Indonesia. Resulting soil liquefaction buried the suburb of Balaroa and Petobo village in 3 meters deep mud. The government of Indonesia is considering designating the two neighborhoods of Balaroa and Petobo, that have been totally buried under mud, as mass graves.The building codes in many countries require engineers to consider the effects of soil liquefaction in the design of new buildings and infrastructure such as bridges, embankment dams and retaining structures.

Specific storage

In the field of hydrogeology, storage properties are physical properties that characterize the capacity of an aquifer to release groundwater. These properties are storativity (S), specific storage (Ss) and specific yield (Sy).

They are often determined using some combination of field tests (e.g., aquifer tests) and laboratory tests on aquifer material samples. Recently, these properties have been also determined using remote sensing data derived from Interferometric synthetic-aperture radar.


A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground that is generally deeper than it is wide (as opposed to a wider gully, or ditch), and narrow compared with its length (as opposed to a simple hole).In geology, trenches are created as a result of erosion by rivers or by geological movement of tectonic plates. In the civil engineering field, trenches are often created to install underground infrastructure or utilities (such as gas mains, water mains or telephone lines), or later to access these installations. Trenches have also often been dug for military defensive purposes. In archaeology, the "trench method" is used for searching and excavating ancient ruins or to dig into strata of sedimented material.

Void ratio

The void ratio of a mixture is the ratio of the volume of voids to volume of solids.

It is a dimensionless quantity in materials science, and is closely related to porosity as follows:


where is void ratio, is porosity, VV is the volume of void-space (such as fluids), VS is the volume of solids, and VT is the total or bulk volume. This figure is relevant in composites, in mining (particular with regard to the properties of tailings), and in soil science. In geotechnical engineering, it is considered as one of the state variables of soils and represented by the symbol e.

Note that in geotechnical engineering, the symbol usually represents the angle of shearing resistance, a shear strength (soil) parameter. Because of this, the equation is usually rewritten using for porosity:


where is void ratio, is porosity, VV is the volume of void-space (air and water), VS is the volume of solids, and VT is the total or bulk volume.

Retaining walls
Numerical analysis


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