Sewage sludges exhibit in most cases rheological properties which do not allow us to classify them either as simple fluids or as solids. On one hand, they are not simple fluids because of their non-Newtonian, shear-thinning and time-dependent (thixotropic or rheopectic) behaviour and because of the possibility for some of them of showing a yield stress. On the other hand, they can hardly be considered as solids, mostly because of their high sensitivity to velocity and because they are practically very often pumped as if they were fluids. This intermediate state sometimes referred to as paste state is in fact very common and is extensively studied, from a manufacturing point of view in areas like ceramics, food or polymer processing and from a civil engineering point of view in soil mechanics for the determination of clay rheology. Many experimental tests have already been designed for their characterisation. The aim of this presentation is to compare some of them and try to make a synthesis between the engineering rheology and soil mechanics approaches.
For this purpose we show experimental results on the same material with different rheometric devices: viz (i) a tube (or capillary) ROSAND rheometer, (ii) a triaxial soil mechanics cell, (iii) an oscillatory, stress driven, plane and plane STRESSTECH rheometer, and (iv) a specific squeezing device which has been designed here following an idea introduced by Laun for polymers. The triaxial cell and the plane and plane rheometers are similar in the sense that they are supposed to allow for an homogeneous state of stress and strain (or rate of strain). In contrast, the tube or squeezing test does not allow for a homogeneous mechanical state. This means that the first two tests enable a real measure of the constitutive relation but in limited conditions while the two others provide a way to identify rheological parameters in flow conditions which are close to the process conditions. The main originalities of this presentation are (i) the balanced point of view between the fluid and the solid mechanics approach and (ii) the method by which the contact properties of the paste is measured with the tube and the squeezing rheometer, giving evidence of a water migration inside the paste.