Physicists determine how a promising lead-free material works

July 18, 2017 by Bob Whitby

Scientists seeking lead-free materials for use in sensors, actuators and ultrasonic motors have recently focused their efforts on a type of ceramic commonly referred to as BCZT. New research by physicists at the University of Arkansas sheds light on how this material works, providing insights that may result in other lead-free materials being developed as well.

The search for a lead-free alternative that generates a strong piezoelectrical response – the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy, and vice versa – at room temperature is, in part, due to restrictions on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. BCZT, an abbreviation of the chemical compound barium calcium zirconate titanate, has shown promise, but to date scientists have not fully understood why.

"In BCZT, a lead-free material, the has been measured to be very large while the microscopic origin of the effect remained a matter of debate," said U of A research associate Yousra Nahas. "It became important to unveil the origin of the effect in order to better gear the properties of this material to the technological challenges."

In a paper published June 20 in the journal Nature Communications, U of A researchers Nahas, Alireza Akbarzadeh, Sergei Prosandeev and Raymond Walter, along with Distinguished Professor of physics Laurent Bellaiche, created an atomic-level model of the BCZT material to unlock its piezoelectric secrets. They determined that its piezoelectric response originates from a structure that allows for easier fluctuations in polarization over a narrow temperature window around .

In addition to providing a deeper understanding of how BCZT works, the findings may point the way to creating other lead-free piezoelectric substances by mixing with desirable traits.

Explore further: Physicists show skyrmions can exist in ferroelectrics

More information: Yousra Nahas et al. Microscopic origins of the large piezoelectricity of leadfree (Ba,Ca)(Zr,Ti)O3, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15944

Related Stories

Lead-free piezoelectric materials of the future

September 14, 2010

Piezoelectric materials have fantastic properties: squeeze them and they generate an electrical field. And vice-versa, they contract or expand when jolted with an electrical pulse. With a name derived from the Greek word ...

The origin of ultrahigh piezoelectric response

January 10, 2017

All ferroelectric materials possess a property known as piezoelectricity in which an applied mechanical force can generate an electrical current and an applied electrical field can elicit a mechanical response. Ferroelectric ...

Harmless elements can replace toxic lead in electronics

July 12, 2017

Most smartphones and other electrical or electronic products contain small amounts of lead, which doesn't sound like a big problem on its own. But when there are many billions of such products, either in daily use or gone ...

Study reveals missing boundary in PZT phase diagram

November 3, 2014

(Phys.org) —Piezoelectric materials, which produce electricity in response to mechanical stress, account for a $12 billion global industry that is projected to grow at a rate of 13.2% per year, according to a recent report ...

Recommended for you

Two teams independently test Tomonaga–Luttinger theory

October 20, 2017

(Phys.org)—Two teams of researchers working independently of one another have found ways to test aspects of the Tomonaga–Luttinger theory that describes interacting quantum particles in 1-D ensembles in a Tomonaga–Luttinger ...

Using optical chaos to control the momentum of light

October 19, 2017

Integrated photonic circuits, which rely on light rather than electrons to move information, promise to revolutionize communications, sensing and data processing. But controlling and moving light poses serious challenges. ...

Black butterfly wings offer a model for better solar cells

October 19, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with California Institute of Technology and the Karlsruh Institute of Technology has improved the efficiency of thin film solar cells by mimicking the architecture of rose butterfly wings. ...

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

October 19, 2017

Brown University researchers have demonstrated a way to bring a powerful form of spectroscopy—a technique used to study a wide variety of materials—into the nano-world.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.