When elongated particles such as fibres are dispersed in water, they form a continuous network, provided the fibre concentration is above a certain level. A measuring technique utilising a concentric cylinder elasto-viscometer has been developed and used for studies of the mechanical properties of such networks.
Networks generally exhibited the same characteristic properties as solid visco-elastic bodies, hence should be characterised by methods used for such materials rather than by hydrodynamic methods. Nevertheless, a close connection was found between the mechanical properties of fibre networks as measured by quasi-static methods and the hydrodynamic behaviour of the same material, then considered as a fibre suspension.
A mechanism for the formation of fibre networks is proposed, in which the network is considered to derive its strength from the energy stored in the fibres when, after being bent in a turbulent shear field-such as is produced during agitation of the fibre suspension-they are prevented from straightening out by their interaction.
A mathematical model of random three-dimensional fibre networks of low concentration has been evolved. The fibre concentration, the length-to-radius ratio and the modulus of elasticity on bending are shown to be the most significant of the parameters determining the rigidity of the network. Experimental study of the shear modulus of model fibre networks substantiated the qualitative validity of the fibre network model.