The micromechanics of shear thickening fluids and their application as protective materials for medical professionals, first responders, football players, astronauts and spacecraft


Location: 155 DeBartolo Hall

Wagner Norman Image


Shear thickening colloidal and/or nanoparticle suspensions are commonly encountered in chemical and materials processing, and are also the basis of a technology platform for advanced, field responsive nanocomposites. In this presentation, I will review some of the experimental methods and key results concerning the micromechanics of colloidal suspension rheology. Micromechanics is the ability to predict the properties of complex systems from a colloidal or microscopic level description of the structure and forces. A fundamental understanding of colloidal suspension rheology and in particular, shear thickening, has been achieved through a combination of model system synthesis, rheological, rheo-optical and rheo-small angle neutron scattering (SANS) measurements, as well as simulation and theory (Colloidal Suspension Rheology Mewis and Wagner, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

Shear thickening fluids (STFs) are novel field-responsive materials that can be engineered to be useful nanocomposites for enhanced ballistic and impact protection, puncture resistant medical gloves, energy absorbing materials for mitigating impacts and concussions, as well as in systems for mitigating micrometeoroid and orbital debris threats in space applications.  The development of commercial applications of STFs will be discussed. The rheological investigations and micromechanical modeling serve as a framework for the rational design of STF-based materials to meet specific performance requirements not easily achieved with more conventional materials.  (Phys. Today, Oct. 2009, p. 27-32) I will illustrate some technological applications of STFs under commercial development, including use in astronaut protection and application in the manned mission to Mars.


Seminar Speaker:

Dr. Norman J. Wagner,

Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chair in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware

Norman J. Wagner is the Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chair in Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, with affiliated faculty appointments in Physics and Astronomy, as well as Biomechanics and Movement Science. He is President of the Society of Rheology (American Institute of Physics Member Society), is the co-founder and director of the Center for Neutron Science, and served as Chair of the CBE Department from 2007-2012.  He was elected to the National Academy of Inventors in 2016 and the National Academy of Engineering in 2015. He leads an active research group with focus on the rheology of complex fluids, neutron scattering, colloid and polymer science, applied statistical mechanics, nanotechnology and particle technology. His research interests include the effects of applied flow on the microstructure and material properties of colloidal suspensions, polymers, self-assembled surfactant solutions, and complex fluids. Prof. Wagner earned his Bachelors degree from Carnegie Mellon and Doctorate from Princeton University, was an NSF/NATO Postdoctoral Fellow in Germany, and a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Lab prior to joining the University of Delaware in 1991. More about Professor Wagner and his research can be found at



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