The word 'piezo' is short for piezoelectric and relates to the piezoelectric effect, which is the ability for materials to generate an electric charge as a result of mechanical stress being applied to it. This effect is unique because it is reversible and the materials generating the effect also exhibit the converse effect. So the piezo creates energy when stress is applied and also creates stress when electricity is applied.
What types of materials are used for the piezoelectric effect?
The materials used for the piezoelectric effect are usually natural or man-made. A list of natural piezoelectric materials are:
Berlinite (similar to quartz)
Man-made materials that are used for the effect are:
Lead zirconate titanate
There are also many studies taking place in order to create lead-free piezoelectric materials, due to the rising concern of toxicity in certain devices that use piezoelectric materials. Scientists are working towards creating piezoelectric materials that are more environmentally safe.
What are some examples of the piezoelectric effect?
The most common uses for the piezoelectric effect are all around you every day:
Cigarette lighter: The cigarette lighter is just one of many uses of piezo that you will see almost everyday. When you press down on the button of the lighter, it causes a spring-loaded hammer to touch a piezo crystal. This releases a high voltage of electric current that flows through a spark gap and lights the gas, which creates the flame.
Gas stoves and ranges: The gas stoves and ranges use the same process to light the flame. The appliances usually have a piezoelectric injection system built in to them.
Motors: The motors are usually produced by Nanomotion. They take advantage of the piezo crystal's ability to position objects with extreme accuracy, which is important for these motors. The piezoelectric material in the motors receives a pulse of electricity that is applied to an opposing ceramic plate in a certain direction. The piezoelectric material moving against the static platform causes motion.
There are several other applications for piezoelectric effect, such as: sensors, the production and detection of sound, and fine focusing optical assemblies. The effect has been in use since the 1880s, and scientists have had time to refine the effect, making it applicable in so many different places. Its first practical use was for sonar in World War I. It is still used for many military devices today and will continue to due to its unique way of conducting energy.
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