National Physical Laboratory

Applications of Functional Materials

Generators / igniters

Piezoelectric ceramics generate voltages sufficient to spark across an electrode gap.

Example: igniters in fuel lighters, gas stoves, welding equipment, etc.

Capacitors

The electrical energy generated by piezoelectric materials can be stored.

Example: excellent solid-state batteries for electronic circuits.

Sensors

A sensor converts a physical parameter, e.g. acceleration or pressure, into an electrical signal. A system responds (visually, audibly, or physically) to sensor input.

Example: automobile seatbelts that lock in response to a rapid deceleration.

Actuators

Piezoelectric motors are unaffected by energy efficiency losses that limit the miniaturisation of electromagnetic motors. Another advantage is the absence of electromagnetic noise.

Example: piezoelectric actuators are used to control hydraulic valves, act as small-volume pumps, or special-purpose motors.

Transducers

Piezoelectric transducers convert electrical energy into vibrational mechanical energy, often sound or ultrasound. These transducers have significant advantages over alternative electromagnetic devices. They are compact, simple, highly reliable, and minimal energy can produce a high level of sound - characteristics that are ideally matched to the needs of battery-powered equipment.

Example: medical ultrasound scans.

Last Updated: 23 Jan 2014
Created: 23 Jan 2014

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