We study theoretically the role of aging in the rheology of soft materials. We define several generalized rheological response functions suited to aging samples (in which time translation invariance is lost). These are then used to study aging effects within a simple scalar model (the “soft glassy rheology” or SGR model) whose constitutive equations relate shear stress to shear strain among a set of elastic elements, with distributed yield thresholds, undergoing activated dynamics governed by a “noise temperature,” x. (Between yields, each element follows affinely the applied shear.) For 1 < x < 2 there is a power-law fluid regime in which transients occur, but no aging. For x < 1, the model has a macroscopic yield stress. So long as this yield stress is not exceeded, aging occurs, with a sample’s apparent relaxation time being of order its own age. The (age-dependent) linear viscoelastic loss modulus G(ω,t) rises as frequency is lowered, but falls with age t, so as to always remain less than G(ω,t) (which is nearly constant). Significant aging is also predicted for the stress overshoot in nonlinear shear startup and for the creep compliance. Though obviously oversimplified, the SGR model may provide a valuable paradigm for the experimental and theoretical study of rheological aging phenomena in soft solids.

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