Piezoelectric materials are special materials. When stress is applied to them, they produce electric voltage. Piezoelectric materials are commonly in the form of ceramics ( piezoceramics ) and crystals. They are used in many ways. In daily life, they are used as igniters in gas grills, gas stoves, and cigarette lighters. They are also used for sound detection, sonar, and for generating high voltage.
Piezoelectricity is the electricity that is produced by applying pressure to materials like bones, ceramics, and crystals. Piezo is a Greek word that means “to press” or “to squeeze.” A disfiguration happens to piezoelectric materials when an electric current is applied to them. That is called converse piezoelectricity. In other words, while piezoelectric materials can produce electricity, they become deformed when they are exposed to electricity.
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History of Piezoelectric Materials
It was in 1880 that piezoelectricity was discovered. But it was only at the time of World War I in 1917 that piezoelectric materials were put to practical use. They were used to create sonar devices which detected the position of submarines. Because of the successful use of piezoelectric materials, more attention was given to these materials. Moreover, the interest in developing more devices using piezoelectric materials increased. Synthetic piezoelectric materials were created and widely used during World War II. Some of their uses during that time were as igniters in small engines and as television and radio signal filters.
Types of Piezoelectric Materials
There are two main types of piezoelectric materials. These are natural and synthetic. Some of the materials that fall under the natural category are silk, collagen, enamel, and dry bone. Natural crystals like tourmaline, topaz, cane sugar, and quartz also have piezoelectric effect. Gallium orthophosphate and langasite are under the synthetic category. The two are synthetic crystals that have piezoelectric properties. Some of the synthetic piezoelectric ceramics are lead zirconate titanate, lead titanate, and barium titanate. Among the piezoceramics, the most commonly used is lead zirconate titanate.
Uses of Piezoelectric Materials
Piezoelectric materials, most especially quartz, have many uses. Quartz has the ability to produce high electric voltage, up to thousands of volts. Electric cigarette lighters are the most commonly seen items that make use of piezoelectric materials. Items such as ultrasound machines, loudspeakers, quartz clocks, car engine management systems, electric guitar pickups, and diesel engine fuel injectors also make use of piezoelectricity.