Hexagonal 2-dimensional α-zirconium phosphate crystals were prepared with lateral diameters ranging from 110 nm to 1.5 μm to investigate the effect of particle size on suspension rheology. The nanoplatelets were exfoliated to individual sheets with monodisperse thickness and dispersed in a Newtonian epoxy fluid. The steady shear response of dilute and semi-dilute suspensions was measured and compared to expressions obtained from theory for infinitely dilute suspensions. For suspensions containing the smaller nanoplatelets, aspect ratio ~160, the low shear rate viscosity and transition to shear thinning behavior were well described by theory for loadings up to 0.5 vol. %. The agreement was improved by assuming a moderate polydispersity in lateral diameter, ~30%-50%, which is consistent with experimental observation. For the higher aspect ratio nanoplatelets, good agreement between theory and experiment was observed only at high shear rates. At lower shear rate, theory consistently over-predicted viscosity, which was attributed to a progressive shift to non-isotropic initial conditions with increasing particle size. The results suggest that at a fixed Peclet number, there is an increasing tendency for the nanoplatelets to form transient, local stacks as particle size increases. The largest particles, aspect ratio ~2200, showed unusual shear thinning and thickening behaviors that were attributed to particle flexibility. The findings demonstrate the surprising utility of theory for infinitely dilute suspensions to interpret, and in some cases quantitatively describe, the non-Newtonian viscosity of real suspensions containing high aspect ratio plate-like particles. A simple framework is proposed to interpret deviations from ideal behavior based on the local and collective behavior of the suspended nanoplatelets.
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