What is Piezoelectric?
Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins) in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure. It is derived from the Greek word piezo or piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and electric or electron, which stands for amber, an ancient source of electric charge.
The piezoelectric effect is understood as the linear electromechanical interaction between the mechanical and the electrical state in crystalline materials with no inversion symmetry. The piezoelectric effect is a reversible process in that materials exhibiting the direct piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of electrical charge resulting from an applied mechanical force) also exhibit the reverse piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of a mechanical strain resulting from an applied electrical field).
The nature of the piezoelectric effect is closely related to the occurrence of electric dipole moments in solids. The latter may either be induced for ions on crystal lattice sites with asymmetric charge surroundings or may directly be carried by molecular groups. The dipole density or polarization (dimensionality [Cm/m3] ) may easily be calculated for crystals by summing up the dipole moments per volume of the crystallographic unit cell. As every dipole is a vector, the dipole density P is a vector field. Dipoles near each other tend to be aligned in regions called Weiss domains. The domains are usually randomly oriented, but can be aligned using the process of poling (not the same as magnetic poling), a process by which a strong electric field is applied across the material, usually at elevated temperatures. Not all piezoelectric materials can be poled.
Of decisive importance for the piezoelectric effect is the change of polarization P when applying a mechanical stress. This might either be caused by a re-configuration of the dipole-inducing surrounding or by re-orientation of molecular dipole moments under the influence of the external stress. Piezoelectricity may then manifest in a variation of the polarization strength, its direction or both, with the details depending on
1. The orientation of P within the crystal,
2. Crystal symmetry and
3. The applied mechanical stress. The change in P appears as a variation of surface charge density upon the crystal faces, i.e. as a variation of the electrical field extending between the faces caused by a change in dipole density in the bulk. For example, a 1 cm3 cube of quartz with 2 kN (500 lbf) of correctly applied force can produce a voltage of 12500 V.