Piezoelectric Actuators

Marek Novotny, Pekka Ronkanen Email: novotny@ac.tut.fi, pekka.ronkanen@tut.fi Abstract This paper discusses piezoelectricity and piezoelectric actuators. History of the piezoelectricity is briefly reviewed and the piezoelectric effect described. General properties of the piezoelectric actuators are summarized and different types of actuators discussed. A high voltage amplifier is typically is typically needed to control the piezoelectric actuators. An overview of the important properties of piezo amplifiers is given in the end of the document. Keywords: piezoelectricity, piezoelectric actuators, piezoelectric bender, piezoelectric stack.

1. Introduction to Piezoelectricity
Pierre and Jacques Curie discovered the piezoelectric effect in 1880. The previous studies by Pierre Curie on the relations of pyroelectricity and crystal symmetry must have led the brothers not only to look for electrification from pressure, but to also foresee into what direction pressure should be applied and in which crystal classes the effect was to be expected. Thus, they proved that certain types of crystals develop an electrical charge when exposed to mechanical stress. Hankel proposed the name ‘piezoelectricity’ where the prefix ‘piezo–’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘press’. In the following year, Lippmann predicted the existence of the inverse piezoelectric effect from thermodynamic considerations and the Curies verified this before the end of 1881. In the inverse piezoelectric effect, the application of an electric field to a piezoelectric crystal leads to a physical deformation of the crystal. [1], [2] The piezoelectric effect requires that the crystal structure must be asymmetric: there is at least one axis in the crystal that does not have a centre of symmetry. Piezoelectric effect occurs in some natural crystal materials, such as quartz, but only in a very small scale. Piezoelectric ceramics, discovered in the 1950’s, experience much stronger piezoelectric effect. The piezoelectric ceramics must undergo a polarizing process for the piezoelectric phenomenon to occur, while crystal materials are naturally piezoelectric. The most commonly used piezoelectric ceramic is lead zirconate titanate (PbZrO3-PbTiO3 or PZT) but also other ceramic materials, such as such as barium titanate, exhibit the effect. 1.1 Piezoelectric elementary cells To understand the piezoelectric effect in ceramics, the behaviour of the material must first be considered in microscopic scale - the behaviour of the elementary cell of the material. Piezoelectric ceramics are ferroelectric materials. Above a certain temperature, called the Curie temperature, the crystal structure have a centre of symmetry and therefore no electric dipole moment, as depicted in Figure 1a, where the elementary cell of PZT is shown [3]. Above the Curie temperature, the elementary cell is cubic (three crystal axes have same lengths) and a positively charged Ti/Zr ion is centered on the lattice. This is called a paraelectric state. Below the Curie temperature, the crystal structure undergoes a phase

no electric dipole.change into the ferroelectric state where the structure is not symmetric. A poled PZT elementary cell is depicted in more details in Figure 2. c) turning of the electric dipole using an external electric field. The positively charged Ti/Zr ion travels from its central location forming a tetragonal structure (one axis is longer than the other two). the Ti/Zr ion shifts in the direction of the field as shown in Figure 1c. as illustrated in Figure 1b. generation of the electric dipole. If a large external field is applied to the cell.e. The ion does not return to its original position when the field is removed resulting in elongation to the direction of the field. see Figure 1d. Figure 1: Behaviour of the PZT elementary cell. [3] 2 . a) The elementary cell above the Curie temperature. i. d) elongation of the elementary cell by an external electric field.e. The electric imbalance causes a built-in electric dipole. When an external field is again applied to the elementary cell. i. the electric imbalance becomes larger and the cell elongates further. b) the elementary cell below the Curie temperature.

The strain resulted from the partial polarization is called a remanent strain. as shown in Figure 3a. a) Non-polarized state. it is not possible to get perfect dipole alignment with the field. Figure 3: Behaviour of piezoceramic material. the material has become permanently piezoelectric and can convert mechanical energy into electrical and vice versa.Figure 2: Poled PZT resulting in an asymmetrical crystal lattice [4]. as shown in Figure 3b. [3]. b) polarized state. Due to the alignment of the domains. However. The piezoelectric ceramics consist of many such domains. the material elongates in the direction of the field as illustrated in Figure 3c. domains. and the material remains partially polarized. c) electric applied after poling. forming large dipole moments. the net external electric dipole is zero. After poling. Because of the random original orientation of domains. molecular dipoles align within small areas.2 Piezoelectric ceramics As a macroscopic point of view. When the voltage is removed. Due to the poling. The domains are randomly oriented and therefore. the material elongates in the same direction. If the piezoelectric ceramics is subjected even once to a large electric field (poling). the domains do not entirely return to their original positions. a reasonable degree of alignment can be achieved. 1. each domain can have several allowed directions and therefore. if electric field is applied. 3 . the domain dipoles align in the direction closest to the field.

0. D is an electric displacement vector. Actuator Types The simple way of producing displacement – a piece of ceramics – has inspired researchers to develop various actuator and motor concepts. too that the dynamics of the material is not described by Equation . very non-linear in nature. Piezoelectric materials exhibit for example a strong hysteresis and drift that is not included in the above model. sE is an elastic compliance matrix when subjected to a constant electric field (the superscript E denotes that the electric field is constant). a high efficiency and a high mechanical durability. 4 . This interaction has been approximated by static linear relations between two electrical and mechanical variables [1]: S = s E T + dE D = dT + ε T E . In addition to the simple mechanical structure.Piezoelectricity involves the interaction between the electrical and mechanical behaviour of the material. E is an electric field vector. piezoelectric actuators have small strains: only 0. The piezoelectric effect is. however. It should be noted. a large hysteresis and creep (drift).2% [5]. T is a stress tensor. Figure 4 presents a typical hysteresis and Figure 5 introduces a typical drift of a piezoelectric actuator. (1) where S is a strain tensor. Other disadvantages are a high supply voltage needed – typically between 60 and 1000 Volts [5]. On the disadvantage side. d is a matrix of piezoelectric constants and εT is a permittivity measured at a constant stress. other beneficial general properties of piezoelectric actuators are: a short response time. 2.1. an ability to create high forces.

The required dimensions of the stack can be easily determined from the requirements of the application in question. benders and linear motors. 2. The height is 5 . as depicted in Figure 6. The three basic types of piezoelectric actuators are stacks. which is a multilayer construction: each stack is composed of several piezoelectric layers.Figure 4: An illustration of the hysteresis of a piezoelectric actuator [11]. This section introduces stacks and linear motors and the following section concentrates on piezoelectric benders.1 Piezoelectric Stack Actuators Perhaps the easiest way to produce a linear motion by the piezoelectric effect is to use a stack actuator. Figure 5: The drift of a piezoelectric actuator [12].

5 µm and a blocked force of 840 N [6]. 6 . It is noticeable. Therefore. The main problem of the stack actuators is the relatively small strain (0. (USA).1 – 0. The stack on the left having dimensions of 5x5x18 mm3 provides a movement of 14. Figure 8 illustrates the deviations from the straight-line accuracy. [6]. The movement can be increased by using for example levers or hydraulic amplifiers. a guiding has to be used if only longitudinal motion is desired. Figure 7 shows stack actuators from Piezo Systems Inc. Figure 6: Structure of a piezoelectric stack [4]. that in addition to the desired longitudinal movement some lateral movement typically also occurs.determined in respect to the desired movement and the cross–sectional area in respect to the desired force. Figure 7: Piezoelectric stacks from Piezo Systems Inc.2 %) obtained.

of the Figure 10: A 3D-CAD piezohydraulic actuator. the linear movement is achieved by using three piezo elements. the amplification is achieved with lever arms which magnify the displacement. the stick & slip actuator and the traveling wave ultrasonic motor are described. There are many different types of linear piezoelectric motors and the main categories are linear stepper motors and ultrasonic motors. 2. The output force of the lever system is significantly smaller than the actuator force. a stick and slip actuator. The linear steppers include an inchworm motor. The ultrasonic motors can be divided into standing wave and traveling wave ultrasonic motors. Hydraulic systems use generally a piston for the amplification. 7 . model of the Piezoelectric motors increase the displacement by providing many small steps. The Micro.Straightness Flatness Figure 8: Straight-line accuracy [7]. and an impact drive motor. The operation principle is illustrated in Figure 11. In this paper. respectively. The principle of the piezohydraulic actuator and a 3D CAD model of a developed actuator are illustrated in Figure 9 and Figure 10. There are many amplification techniques such as levers and hydraulic systems. The outer piezo elements work as clamps. Fluid Bellows Piezoelectric Disk Strain Gauge Piezoelectric actuator Bellows Fluid chamber Figure 9: A schematic piezohydraulic actuator. the operating principles of the inchworm motor. and piezoelectric motors. In inchworm motors. The middle element contracts and expands which generates the movement of the rod [7].2 Linear Motors Since the strain of the piezoelectric ceramics is relatively small. displacement amplifiers or hybrid structures are needed. In the lever systems.and Nanosystems Research Group has developed a hydraulic amplifier based on the use of bellows.

Figure 11: Operation of inchworm motor [7]. The actuator consists of particular legs and a slider. which uses inertia of the moving mass. In slow deformation of the legs. the moving mass follows the legs due to the friction (the frictional force is higher than the force caused by the slider inertia). 8 . Figure 12 shows the operating principle of stick and slip actuator. Each step consists of a slow deformation of the legs and fast jump backwards. the slider can not follow the legs due to its inertia [10]. The stick and slip actuator is a type of an inertia device. In the sudden jump backwards.

This way. while the other contracts. there are two piezoelectric layers with an anti-parallel polarization connected to each other. The traveling wave ultrasonic motor is driven by a voltage having two phases. In this arrangement. 9 . The particles on the surface move along the elliptical trajectories. but generally there are two piezoelectric layers and no metal (bimorph). With a piezoelectric bender. 2.Figure 12: Operating principle of the stick and slip actuator [10]. The motion of the particles is on the opposite direction of the wave. and therefore. it moves in the same direction as the particles due to the frictional force produced between the moving body and the elastic body [9]. as shown in Figure 13. In a serial bender. If the number of piezoelectric layers exceeds two.3 Piezoelectric Benders Piezoelectric bending actuators (or piezoelectric cantilevers. The net result is a curvature much greater than the length or thickness deformation of the individual layers. the displacement is doubled in comparison to a single layer version. the bender is referred as a multilayer. relatively high displacements can be achieved. or piezoelectric bimorphs) bear a close resemblance to bimetallic benders. one of the electrodes is connected to the ground and the other to the output of a bipolar amplifier. Bimorph and multilayer benders can be built into one of the two types: a serial or parallel bender. The application of an electric field across the two layers of the bender result in one layer to expand. the benefit of the multilayer benders is their lower operating voltage. but at the cost of force and speed. and two surface electrodes. There are some benders that have only one piezoelectric layer on top of a metal layer (unimorph). The voltage is applied to the piezoelectric element at the resonance frequency. a smaller voltage is required to produce the same electric field strength. With thinner piezo layers. The resonance frequency produces a traveling wave. When a moving body (rotor) is placed in contact with the surface.

The parallel bender can also be connected in such a way that the two surface electrodes are connected to the ground and a bipolar signal is applied to the middle electrode [11]. and it varies between zero and a fixed voltage. The two surface electrodes are connected to the ground and to a fixed voltage. we have to amplify it. Equation 2 presents the current as a function of the actuator capacitance C and the speed of voltage change. an important property is the current driving capability of the amplifier. This section describes the most important piezo amplifier characteristics such as a voltage range. In other words. The control voltage is applied to the middle electrode. 3. 3. bilateral motion for bipolar driving voltage [11]. before we can use the control signal provided by the computer through a DA-converter. Piezo Amplifiers A voltage amplifier is typically needed to control the piezoelectric actuators due to the high operating voltage needed for the piezo actuators.Figure 13: A serial bender arrangement with an anti-parallel polarization in piezoelectric layers.1 Voltage Range The output voltage range is perhaps the most important property of the amplifier. because it either limits the range of displacement when being too small or decreases the displacement resolution when being too large. Parallel benders can be distinguished from serial benders by their three electrodes. 3. a slew rate. to which the actual control signal is supplied. I (t ) = C dU dt (2) 10 . a power efficiency and a noise. Figure 14: Schematic of a parallel bender in operation [11]. Figure 14. In between the two parallel-polarized piezoelectric layers is a middle electrode. This together with the capacitance of the piezoelectric actuator determines the maximum operating frequency. peak and average currents.2 Current and Slew Rate In addition to the supply voltage range.

the peak current is more important but average current cannot still be forgotten. Tampere. 8 Burlegh Instruments. Linear Motion Miniature Actuators. 3.3 Power Efficiency One aspect to consider. M. References 1 Ikeda. 4 Physik Instrumente. Piezo Actuators. every infinitely small voltage step caused by the noise of the amplifier. 138. Piezoelectric bending actuators Disk translators (“bimorphs”) Piezoelectric tubes. More information about the power efficiency can be found in [13]. 1990.physikinstrumente. 5 Tabib-Azar. Mechanical. Newport Support Tutorial. Magnetic. 2 Fatikow.html 7 Newport Corporation. For most amplifiers. User’s Manual.pdf 11 . 30. Therefore. 2nd Tampere International Conference on Machine Automation.. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.-M.epfl. P. S. Chemical and Smart Structures. because it determines the maximum dU/dt relation.com/enus/dept_27. Kallio.com/pdfs/bendact. Multilayer Piezoelectric Actuator. Fundamentals of Piezoelectricity and http://www.2004. an important property of the amplifier when designing a precision positioning system is the noise characteristics of the amplifier. pp 297-309. M. T. Berlin Heidelberg. http://www. 3. September 1998. 1998. both the peak and the average current limits are given. 1997. 11 Piezomechanik.2. The Power of Precision in Nanositioning Catalogue. The required peak and average currents ratio show a fixed ratio of approximately 3:1 for a sine oscillation.html 16. Finland.. for example [13].The slew rate of the amplifier can also act as a limiting factor. J. Fundamentals of Piezoelectricity. This is important especially in portable devices. Thermal. such as piezo actuators. Oxford University Press. Optical. 3 Tokin Corporation. New York. Inc. http://dmtwww.ch/isr/hpr/stick_and_slip_info.10. Pp 139141. Pp. With capacitive loads. in devices that have wireless power supply and in devices operating on high frequencies. ans Koivo. 9 Lind. Springer-Verlag. Kluwer Academic Publishers.piezo. pp 1.piezomechanik.pdf . Low Voltage Piezoelectric Stacks. & Rembold. U. is the power efficiency of the supplied power.H. for example. 2000.2002.4 Noise Piezoelectric actuators have theoretically an unlimited resolution. Microsystem Technology and Microrobotics. is transformed into an infinitely small mechanical shift [13].com/tutorial/4_15. Microactuators Electrical. Therefore. Stick and Slip Micro-robots. 10 Breguet. http://www. 6 Piezo Systems Inc.

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