Thixotropy and shear thinning of lubricated contacts with confined membranes
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We have modeled the nonlinear dynamics and the rheological behavior of a system under shear containing a membrane confined between two attractive walls. The presence of the membrane induces additional tangential forces on the walls that always increase the global friction. At low shear rates, the membrane exhibits chaotic dynamics with slow coarsening leading to thixotropy, i.e. to a slow decrease of the membrane-induced tangential forces on the walls. At intermediate shear rates, the membrane profile presents stationary periodic patterns. At higher shear rates, membrane dynamics are governed by a nonlinear evolution equation which is similar to the Kuramoto-Sivashinski equation, but with a sixth-order stabilizing term. The membrane experiences chaotic dynamics without coarsening. As a consequence of the nonlinear dynamics of the membrane at intermediate and large shear rates, the system exhibits shear thinning.