Reducing the viscosity of liquids is critical to production involving high viscous liquids in many industries. This guide looks at viscosity, how it can affect production, and the role temperature plays in reducing and controlling viscosity.

What is Viscosity

Viscosity is a measurement of fluid resistance or the difficulty in which molecules have passing each other. Viscosity is similar to the informal concept of thickness. A simple example would be the statement: Honey has a higher viscosity (thickness) than water.

Liquids have varying viscosity

Liquids have different viscosities depending on their properties. If you have a range of liquids at the same temperature some like water will have a low viscosity of around 1, while others like honey will have a higher viscosity of over 2000.

Viscosity measurement guides:

Smooth-On has a great Viscosity Scale Reference Guide PDF which features a range of liquids and their viscosity measurements.

Michael Smith Engineers Limited also has an Approximate Viscosities PDF Guide featuring hundreds of liquids and their measurements.

This graph shows a small sample of liquids and differing viscosities.

How does Viscosity effect Production?

Liquids with higher viscosity can be harder to handle in a production environment. If the liquid is traveling in a pipe it will flow slower and when being down packed it will fill containers slowly. High viscosity can therefore lead to increased production time, increased wastage, and production downtime.

Example 1. Down packing of high viscosity liquids.

Honey is an example of a highly viscous liquid, and if a producer is looking to empty an IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) of honey into Drums or Bottles, the speed the liquid flows will directly impact the time to complete the task.

Production Problem: Honey is highly viscous and flow speed and crystallization affect production.

Example 2. Mixing liquids with different viscosities.

Combining liquids with different viscosities is harder than combining liquids with similar viscosities. A producer looking to mix two liquids together will often try to have both liquids as a similar viscosity before mixing.

Production Problem: Mixing liquids of different viscosities can be time consuming and complicated.

Example 3: Viscosity caused delays, downtime, and wastage.

Production Problem: High viscous liquids can clog pipes, pumps, and machines.

Production Problem: Removing the last amounts of high viscous liquids from IBCs and Drums can be time-consuming and often leads to wastage.

How to control viscosity in liquids

Temperature affects viscosity

Liquid viscosity is significantly affected by heat. As the temperature of a liquid increases viscosity decreases. This relationship is exceptional rather than linear, with the most viscous liquids being the most sensitive to temperature changes.

Using temperature to control viscosity

By introducing heat to a liquid (in a Drum or IBC for example) a producer can reduce its viscosity, and therefore reduce or eliminate many of the production problems when working with highly viscous liquids. If we look at our previous examples we can see how heat solves the problems.

Example 1. Down packing of high viscosity liquids.

Production Problem: Honey is highly viscous and flow speed and crystallization affect production.

Solution: Heat the IBC to the desired temperature. This will remove crystallization and flow speeds will be dramatically increased. Accurate temperature control, the ability to control ramp (heating) rates, and even heat spread may be heating product attributes producers may consider.  (See: ThermoBlanket IBC Heaters which have all these features)

Example 2. Mixing liquids with different viscosities.

Production Problem: Mixing liquids of different viscosities can be time consuming and complicated.

Solution: Increase the temperature of one (or both liquids) to achieve the desired production viscosity. (See: ThermoBlanket Drum Heaters, IBC Heaters, or Heating Blankets.)

Example 3: Viscosity caused delays, downtime, and wastage.

Production Problem: High viscous liquids can clog pipes, pumps, and machines.

Solution: Heat the liquids in holding containers (See: ThermoBlanket Drum Heaters, IBC Heaters, or Heating Blankets.) Consider heating or insulating the pipes also. (See: ThermoBlanket Heating Blankets (Or custom order))

Production Problem: Removing the last amounts of high viscous liquids from IBCs and Drums can be time-consuming and often leads to wastage.

Solution: Heat the liquids in holding containers to reduce viscosity. For IBC’s, consider a milti zone heater that allows you to heat only the bottom half or bottom third when liquid levels are low. (See: ThermoBlanket Drum Heaters, or IBC Heaters which have these features)

 

How to apply heat to a Drum or IBC?

There are a number of ways heat can be applied to containers of liquid.

We cover these in our guide: How to Heat Drums & IBCs

 

ThermoBlanket offers a range of solutions for heating and maintaining the temperature in Drums, IBCs, Pallets, or other containers.