Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 31–40 | Cite as

The effect of grain size on the viscosity and yield stress of fine-grained sediments

  • Sueng Won JeongEmail author


In debris flow modelling, the viscosity and yield stress of fine-grained sediments should be determined in order to better characterize sediment flow. In particular, it is important to understand the effect of grain size on the rheology of fine-grained sediments associated with yielding. When looking at the relationship between shear stress and shear rate before yielding, a high-viscosity zone (called pseudo-Newtonian viscosity) towards the apparent yield stress exists. After yielding, plastic viscosity (called Bingham viscosity) governs the flow. To examine the effect of grain size on the rheological characteristics of fine-grained sediments, clay-rich materials (from the Adriatic Sea, Italy; Cambridge Fjord, Canada; and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain), silt-rich debris flow materials (from La Valette, France) and silt-rich materials (iron tailings from Canada) were compared. Rheological characteristics were examined using a modified Bingham model. The materials examined, including the Canadian inorganic and sensitive clays, exhibit typical shear thinning behavior and strong thixotropy. In the relationships between the liquidity index and rheological values (viscosity and apparent yield stress), the effect of grain size on viscosity and yield stress is significant at a given liquidity index. The viscosity and yield stress of debris flow materials are higher than those of low-activity clays at the same liquid state. However the viscosity and yield stress of the tailings, which are mainly composed of silt-sized particles, are slightly lower than those of low-activity clays.


Debris Flow Viscosity Yield Stress Grain Size Fine-Grained Sediments 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bagnold RA (1954) Experiments on a gravity-free dispersion of large solid spheres in a Newtonian fluid under shear. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 6 August 1954, London, UK. Vol. 225. pp. 49–63. DOI: 10.1098/rspa.1954.0186Google Scholar
  2. Barnes HA (1999) The yield stress — a review or ‘παντ ρɛι’ — everything flows? Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics 81: 133–178. DOI: 10.1016/S0377-0257(98)00094-9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes HA, Walters K (1985) The yield stress myth? Rheologica Acta 24: 323–326. DOI: 10.1007/BF01333960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bentley SP (1979) Viscometric assessment of remoulded sensitive clays. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 16: 414–419. DOI: 10.1139/t79-043CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonn D, Denn MM (2009) Yield stress fluids slowly yield to analysis. Science. 324: 1401–1402. DOI: 10.1126/science.1174217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheng DCH (1986) Yield stress: A time-dependent property and how to measure it. Rheologica Acta 25: 542–554. DOI: 10.1007/BF01774406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coussot P (1995) Structural similarity and transition from Netwonian to non-Newtonian behavior for water-clay suspensions. Physical Review Letters 74: 3971–3974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coussot P (2007) The mechanics of yield stress fluids: similarities, specificities and open questions. 16th Australasian Fluid Mechanics Conference, Crown Plaza, Gold Coast, Australia. pp. 54–58.Google Scholar
  9. Coussot P, Nguyen GD, Huynh HT, Bonn D (2002) Viscosity bifurcation in thixotropic, yielding fluids. Journal of Rheology 46: 573–589. DOI: 10.1122/1.1459447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coussot P, Piau JM (1994) On the behavior of fine mud suspensions. Rheologica Acta 33: 175–184. DOI: 10.1007/BF00437302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Imran J, Parker G, Locat J, Lee H (2001) 1D numerical model of muddy subaqueous and subaerial debris flows. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 127: 959–968. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9429(2001)127:11(959)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Iverson RM (1997) The physics of debris flow. Reviews of Geophysics 35: 245–296. DOI: 10.1029/97RG00426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Iverson RM, Vallance JW (2001) New views of granular mass flows. Geological society of America 29: 115–118. DOI: 10.1130/0091-7613(2001)029<0115:NVOGMF>2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
  14. Jeong SW (2006). Influence of physico-chemical characteristics of fine-grained sediments on their rheological behavior. PhD Thesis, Laval University, Quebec, Canada.Google Scholar
  15. Jeong SW (2010) Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows. Geosciences Journal 14: 359–369. DOI: 10.1007/s12303-010-0036-yCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jeong SW (2013) The viscosity of fine-grained sediments: A comparsion of low- to medium-activity and high-activity clays. Engineering Geology 154: 1–5. DOI: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2012.12.006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jeong SW, Leroueil S, Locat J (2009) Applicability of power law for describing the rheology of soils of different origins and characteristics. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 46: 1011–1023. DOI: 0.1139/T09-031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jeong SW, Locat J, Leroueil S, Malet JP (2010) Rheological properties of fine-grained sediments: the roles of texture and mineralogy. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 47: 1085–1100. DOI: 10.1139/T10-012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Locat J (1997) Normalized rheological behaviour of fine muds and their flow properties in a pseudoplastic regime. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation, San Francisco. ASCE, New York. pp 260–269.Google Scholar
  20. Locat J, Demers D (1988) Viscosity, yield stress, remoulded strength, and liquidity index relationships for sensitive clays. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 25: 799–806. DOI: 10.1139/t88-088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Locat J, Lee HJ, Locat P, Imran J (2004) Numerical analysis of the mobility of the Palos Verdes debris avalanche, California, and its implication for the generation of tsunamis. Marine Geology 203: 269–280. DOI: 10.1016/S0025-3227(03)00310-4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Major JJ, Pierson TC (1992) Debris flow rheology: experimental analysis of fine-grained slurries. Water Resources Research 28: 841–857. DOI: 10.1029/91WR02834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Malet JP, Remaître A, Maquaire O, et al. (2003) Flow susceptibility of heterogeneous marly formations. Implications for torrent hazard control in the Barcelonnette basin (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France). In: Rickenmann D and Chen CL (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation, Millpress, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. pp. 351–362.Google Scholar
  24. Mitchell JK (1993) Fundamentals of soil behavior. 2nd ed. New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp 450.Google Scholar
  25. Møller PCF, Mewis J, Bonn D (2006) Yield stress and thixotropy: on the difficulty of measuring yield stresses in practice. Soft Matter 2: 274–283. DOI: 10.1039/B517840ACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Møller PCF, Fall A, Bonn D (2009) Origin of apparent viscosity in yield stress fluids below yielding. Europhysics Letters 87: 38004-p1–38004-p6. DOI:10.1209/0295-5075/87/38004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nguyen QD, Boger DV (1992) Measuring the flow properties of yield stress fluids. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics 24: 47–88. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.fl.24.010192.000403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Papanastasiou TC (1987) Flows of materials with yield. Journal of Rheology 31: 385–404. DOI: 10.1122/1.549926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Perret D, Locat J, Martignoni P (1996) Thixotropic behavior during shear of a fine-grained mud from Eastern Canada. Engineering Geology 43: 31–44. DOI: 10.1016/0013-7952(96)00031-2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ovarlez G, Rodts S, Chateau X, et al. (2009) Phenomenology and physical origin of shear localization and shear banding in complex fluids. Rheologica Acta 48: 831–844. DOI: 10.1007/s00397-008-0344-6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tsutsumi A, Yoshida K (1987) Effect of temperature on rheological properties of suspensions. Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics 26: 175–183. DOI: 10.1016/0377-0257 (87)80003-4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Van Asch ThWJ (2007) Problems in predicting the mobility of slow-moving landslides. Engineering Geology 91: 46–55. DOI: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2006.12.012CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral ResourcesDaejeonKorea

Personalised recommendations