As the name suggests, piezoceramic sensors are sensors in which the active sensing material is both ceramic and piezoelectric. Ceramic materials are defined as inorganic, non-metallic materials. There are many examples which fall into this category, including inorganic oxides, nitrides and carbides. One common example of a piezoceramic used in sensors is lead zirconate titanate-commonly known as PZT.
As the piezoelectric effect is generated in many physical environments, piezoceramic sensors can be used to measure changes in physical factors, including pressure, acceleration, temperature, induced shock, strain, or force. A change in the environment will invoke some kind of force on the piezoceramic, resulting in an electrical charge which can be detected and measured by the sensor. One example is stress/strain gauges used in civil engineering, where the displacement of a structure (no matter how minute) can be picked up as it exerts a force on the sensor.
Most piezoceramic sensors are designed to measure more than one property, with pressure and acceleration being the most common. In accelerometers, a slightly different mechanism is utilized. Mechanisms relying on a direct force on the sensor are known as active sensors, whereas an accelerometer is a passive sensor. This means that a force is exerted by another component inside the sensor when there is a change in the parameter being measured. In accelerometers, a seismic mass is attached to the piezoceramic material and presses down with a relative force when the object being sensed accelerates.
One key advantage of using piezoceramic materials in sensors is that they can adapt to many different geometries without losing their functional properties. Whilst they generate an electrical charge under compression, the physical bulk structure doesn`t change that much, and this prevents them from breaking under prolonged deformation. Piezoceramic materials are also resistant to electromagnetic radiation, which enables them to be used in a number of environments for a range of applications.
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