Portlandite (calcium hydroxide: CH: Ca (OH)2) suspensions aggregate spontaneously and form percolated fractal aggregate networks when dispersed in water. Consequently, the viscosity and yield stress of portlandite suspensions diverge at low particle loadings, adversely affecting their processability. Even though polycarboxylate ether (PCE)-based comb polyelectrolytes are routinely used to alter the particle dispersion state, water demand, and rheology of similar suspensions (e.g., ordinary portland cement suspensions) that feature a high pH and high ionic strength, their use to control portlandite suspension rheology has not been elucidated. This study combines adsorption isotherms and rheological measurements to elucidate the role of PCE composition (i.e., charge density, side chain length, and grafting density) in controlling the extent of PCE adsorption, particle flocculation, suspension yield stress, and thermal response of portlandite suspensions. We show that longer sidechain PCEs are more effective in affecting suspension viscosity and yield stress, in spite of their lower adsorption saturation limit and fractional adsorption. The superior steric hindrance induced by the longer side chain PCEs results in better efficacy in mitigating particle aggregation even at low dosages. However, when dosed at optimal dosages (i.e., a dosage that induces a dynamically equilibrated dispersion state of particle aggregates), different PCE-dosed portlandite suspensions exhibit identical fractal structuring and rheological behavior regardless of the side chain length. Furthermore, it is shown that the unusual evolution of the rheological response of portlandite suspensions with temperature can be tailored by adjusting the PCE dosage. The ability of PCEs to modulate the rheology of aggregating charged particle suspensions can be generally extended to any colloidal suspension with a strong screening of repulsive electrostatic interactions.


Materials Science and Engineering


National Science Foundation, Grant 1922167

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1520-5827; 0743-7463

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2023 American Chemical Society, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 2023