Example of piezoelectric pressure sensor working principle

Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor Working Principle & Applications

Some scholars have suggested that the Giza Pyramids in Egypt were actually generators of electrical energy, pointing to the structures’ size, architecture, and materials (for example, granite, which may be comprised of up to 50% quartz crystal). Interestingly, quartz ceramics—including barium titanate, lead zirconate titanate, and gallium nitrate—and some polymers (primarily ferroelectric) are natural materials that can generate electricity due to mechanical strain, which is known as the piezoelectric effect.

The piezoelectric effect, first demonstrated by Pierre and Jacques Curie in 1880, is a physical phenomenon that only a small number of materials exhibit. Most of these materials also exhibit the reverse process whereby an electrical charge causes mechanical deformation. These capabilities are utilized in energy applications today, such as transformation in power electronics systems. More common, however, is the employment of the piezoelectric pressure sensor working principle for a wide range of products from commercial systems to applications in harsh environments like aerospace and defense.

What is the Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor Working Principle?

Piezoelectric sensors are effective at detecting dynamic pressure differences over a wide pressure range—from about 0.1 to 10,000 pound per square inch (PSI). These devices do not require an external power source, but amplification is typically required to raise the electrical voltage potential created to a workable level. Common applications for piezoelectric pressure sensors include the following:

Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor Applications

  • ☐ Power monitoring
  • ☐ Strain gauges
  • ☐ Biological sensing
  • ☐ Sonochemical study
  • ☐ Automotive engine management systems
  • ☐ Industrial processing
  • ☐ Sonar systems
  • ☐ Aerospace testing

Piezoelectric sensors also have a fairly flat frequency response over their operating range, as shown below.

Screenshot 2022-07-19 003416

General piezoelectric sensor frequency response. Image from Avnet.

Other advantages that make piezoelectric sensors attractive devices include the following:

Advantages of piezoelectric pressure sensors

  • ❖ Usability in harsh environments
  • ❖ Not significantly affected by EMI
  • ❖ Low material cost 
  • ❖ High abundance of material (minimally impacted by supply chain issues)

These advantages, coupled with simple operation, are the main contributing factors for the widespread usage of piezoelectric sensors. However, to optimally take advantage of the piezoelectric pressure sensor working principle exhibited by these devices for your PCBA energy applications, there are some best practices to follow during your board development process.

How to Best Use Piezoelectric Pressure Sensors in Your Energy PCBA Design

Piezoelectric pressure sensors can be applied to a number of different applications that are essential to today’s energy systems. They include products used in standalone systems, automotives, industrial production facilities, and the smart grid. These applications may vary in specific function; however, there are general design best practices that should be incorporated irrespective of application to achieve the most reliable performance.

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Guidelines for Designing Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor PCBAs

  • Include an adequate charge boosting amplifier
    Acquired charge potentials are typically low in magnitude and differentiation. Therefore, magnification enhances the sensitivity of the sensor system.
  • Mount external electronics near the sensor output
    In addition to low signal magnitudes, sensor output resistance is high which necessitates amplification prior to exposure to noise and other signal degradation sources.
  • Isolate high-temperature sources from external electronics
    Piezoelectric sensors can operate at very high temperatures (in some cases, > 1000°C). However, your electronic devices may only function reliably at much lower temperatures.
  • Ensure fast signal switching speed
    Depending on the application, environmental changes in pressure and temperature can occur rapidly. Accuracy is reliant upon the ability to detect these parameter shifts.
  • Ensure board structural integrity meets installation environment parameters
    One of the major advantages of piezoelectric pressure sensors is their ruggedness which allows for their deployment in hazardous environments. Consequently, the boards that contain them must also meet these requirements.
  • Partner with your contract manufacturer (CM) early to ensure they maintain design intent throughout the development process.
    Although the sensors themselves can be fabricated from low-cost materials, it is essential that your board manufacturing process adheres to construction standards commensurate with the sensor’s application and expected lifecycle. For hazardous environments, this typically means IPC 2, 3, or higher space addendum standards.
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  • ISO-9001, IPC-600, and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Execute your full development cycle from proto to validation, NPI, and low volume production.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 4 days.
  • DFX support, including DFM, DFA, and DFT from Day 1 of design.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry. to reduce procurement time.
  • Software-driven smart factory with monitoring and control throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

Following the guidelines above will aid you in developing effective and reliable piezoelectric pressure sensors for your energy applications. It is important, however, that your board construction process is based on superior quality control and that your CM is well-versed and experienced in the requirements for harsh environment circuit board applications, such as Tempo Automation. "

Tempo employs a white-box turnkey PCBA manufacturing process that promotes collaboration and transparency between engineers and CMs. This allows us to quickly deliver high-quality boards for both standard and non-standard designs that meet energy industry criteria for prototyping and on-demand production. We also provide downloadable DRC files in Altium Designer, Cadence Allegro, Mentor Pads, other CAD formats, and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on CAD files or how to incorporate your design into a CAD format, contact us.

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