Piezoelectric Transducer: Applications & Working Principle

Key learnings:
  • Piezoelectric Transducer Definition: A piezoelectric transducer is a device that converts physical pressures like force or acceleration into an electric charge.
  • Working Principle: The piezoelectric effect allows these transducers to generate voltage when mechanical stress is applied, which is then used to measure that stress.
  • Material Properties: Piezoelectric materials like quartz crystal are essential for the transducer’s function, responding uniquely to mechanical stresses.
  • Application Diversity: Piezoelectric transducers are used in numerous fields including medical diagnostics, automotive safety, and consumer electronics.
  • Reversibility and Sensitivity: This technology not only detects forces but can also apply forces when voltage is introduced, demonstrating high sensitivity and versatility.

What is Piezoelectric Transducer

A piezoelectric transducer (also known as a piezoelectric sensor) is a device that uses the piezoelectric effect to measure changes in acceleration, pressure, strain, temperature or force by converting this energy into an electrical charge.

A transducer can be anything that converts one form of energy to another. Piezoelectric materials, a type of transducer, convert mechanical energy into electrical voltage when pressed or strained. This voltage directly corresponds to the amount of force applied.

The electric voltage produced by a piezoelectric transducer can be easily measured by the voltage measuring instruments. Since this voltage will be a function of the force or pressure applied to it, we can infer what the force/pressure was by the voltage reading. In this way, physical quantities like mechanical stress or force can be measured directly by using a piezoelectric transducer.

What is Piezoelectric Transducer

Piezoelectric Actuator

A piezoelectric actuator behaves in the reverse manner of the piezoelectric sensor. It is the one in which the electric effect will cause the material to deform i.e. stretch or bend.

This implies that in a piezoelectric sensor, applying force to stretch or bend it generates an electric potential. Conversely, in a piezoelectric actuator, applying an electric potential causes the material to deform, either stretching or bending.

Piezoelectric Actuator

A piezoelectric transducer consists of quartz crystal which is made from silicon and oxygen arranged in crystalline structure (SiO2). Generally, unit cell (basic repeating unit) of all crystal is symmetrical but in piezoelectric quartz crystal, it is not. Piezoelectric crystals are electrically neutral.

Although the atoms in piezoelectric crystals are arranged asymmetrically, their electrical charges are balanced, meaning positive and negative charges cancel each other out. Quartz crystals uniquely generate electrical polarity under mechanical stress, which can be either compressive or tensile.

Piezoelectric Quartz

When there is unstressed quartz no charges induce on it. In the case of compressive stress, positive charges are induced on one side and negative charges are induced in the opposite side. The crystal size gets thinner and longer due to compressive stress. In the case of tensile stress, charges are induced in reverse as compare to compressive stress and quartz crystal gets shorter and fatter.

A piezoelectric transducer is based on the principle of the piezoelectric effect. The word piezoelectric is derived from the Greek word piezen, which means to squeeze or press. The piezoelectric effect states that when mechanical stress or forces are applied on quartz crystal, produce electrical charges on the quartz crystal surface. The piezoelectric effect is discovered by Pierre and Jacques Curie. The rate of charge produced will be proportional to the rate of change of mechanical stress applied to it. Higher will be stress higher will be voltage.

One of the unique characteristics of the piezoelectric effect is that it is reversible means when voltage is applied to them, they tend to change dimension along with certain plane i.e quartz crystal structure is placed into an electric field, it will deform quartz crystal by an amount proportional to the strength of the electric field. If the same structure is placed into an electric field with the direction of field reversed, the deformation will be the opposite.

Piezoelectric Effect

Quartz crystal becomes longer due to the electric field applied

Piezoelectric Sensor

Quartz crystal becomes shorter due to the electric field applied in a reversed direction.
It is a self-generating transducer. It does not require an electric voltage source for operation. The electric voltage produced by the piezoelectric transducer is linearly varied to applied stress or force.

The piezoelectric transducer has high sensitivity. So, it acts as a sensor and used in accelerometer due to its excellent frequency of response. The piezoelectric effect is used in many applications that involve the production and detection of sound, electronic frequency generation. It acts as an ignition source for cigarette lighter and used in sonar, microphone, force, pressure, and displacement measurement

Application of Piezoelectric Materials

Using piezoelectric materials, piezoelectric transducers can be used in a variety of applications, including:

  1. In microphones, the sound pressure is converted into an electric signal and this signal is ultimately amplified to produce a louder sound.
  2. Automobile seat belts lock in response to a rapid deceleration is also done using a piezoelectric material.
  3. It is also used in medical diagnostics.
  4. It is used in electric lighter used in kitchens. The pressure made on piezoelectric sensor creates an electric signal which ultimately causes the flash to fire up.
  5. They are used for studying high-speed shock waves and blast waves.
  6. Used infertility treatment.
  7. Used in Inkjet printers
  8. It is also used in restaurants or airports where when a person steps near the door and the door opens automatically. In this, the concept used is when a person is near the door pressure is exerted person weight on the sensors due to which the electric effect is produced and the door opens automatically.

Examples of Piezoelectric Material

The materials are :

  1. Barium Titanate.
  2. Lead zirconate titanate (PZT).
  3. Rochelle salt.

The Piezoelectric Ultrasonic Transducer

It produces frequencies that are far above that which can be heard by the human ear. It expands and contracts rapidly when subjected to any voltage. It is typically used in a vacuum cleaner.

Piezo Buzzer

A buzzer is anything that produces sound. They are driven by the oscillating electronic circuit. A piezoelectric element may be driven by an oscillating electronic circuit or another audio signal source, driven with a piezoelectric audio amplifier. A blick, a ring, or a beep are commonly sued sound to indicate that a button has been pressed.

A piezoelectric buzzer (or piezoelectric beeper) depends on acoustic cavity resonance (or Helmholtz resonance) to produce an audible beep.

Piezoelectric Transducer Advantages

The advantages of piezoelectric transducers are:

  1. No need for an external force
  2. Easy to handle and use as it has small dimensions
  3. High-frequency response it means the parameters change very rapidly

Piezoelectric Transducer Disadvantages

The disadvantages of piezoelectric transducers are:

  1. It is not suitable for measurement in static condition
  2. It is affected by temperatures
  3. The output is low so some external circuit is attached to it
  4. It is very difficult to give the desired shape to this material and also desired strength
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