Piezoelectric Sensors Update 08/2005
2The rise of piezoelectric technology is directlyrelated to a set of inherent advantages. The highmodulus of elasticity of many piezoelectric materialsis comparable to that of many metals and goes upto 10
. Even though piezoelectric sensorsare electromechanical systems that react oncompression, the sensing elements show almostzero deflection. This is the reason why piezoelectricsensors are so rugged, have an extremely highnatural frequency and an excellent linearity over awide amplitude range. Additionally, piezoelectrictechnology is insensitive to electromagnetic fieldsand radiation, enabling measurements under harshconditions. Some materials used (especiallygalliumphosphate or tourmaline) have an extremestability over temperature enabling sensors to havea working range of 1000°C.
Comparison of sensing principles
Comparison of different sensing principles according to Gautschi. Numbers give only a tendency for the general characteristics.
The single disadvantage of piezoelectric sensors isthat they cannot be used for true staticmeasurements. A static force will result in a fixedamount of charges on the piezoelectric material.Working with conventional electronics, not perfectinsulating materials, and reduction in internal sensorresistance will result in a constant loss of electrons,yielding an inaccurate signal. ElevatedAnyhow, it would be a misconception thatpiezoelectric sensors can only be used for very fastprocesses or at ambient conditions. In fact, thereare numerous applications that show quasi-staticmeasurements while there are other applicationsthat go to temperatures far beyond 500°C.
PRINCIPLE OF OPERATION
Depending on the way a piezoelectric material iscut, three main types of operations can bedistinguished 1. transversal 2. longitudinal 3. shear.
A gallium phosphate crystal is shown with typical sensor elements manufactured out of it. Depending on the design of a sensor different ”modes” to load the crystal can be used: transversal, longitudinal and shear (arrows indicate the direction where the load is applied). Charges are generated on both ”x- sides” of the element. The positive charges on the front side are accompanied by negative charges on the back.
Gallium phosphate sensing elementstemperatures cause an additional drop in internalresistance; therefore, at higher temperatures, onlypiezoelectric materials can be used that maintain ahigh internal resistance.