Piezoelectric Stack Actuators

Basics of Stack Actuators

Piezo materials are materials that will generate an electric charge when they are deformed, or conversely, they will deform when electrically charged. The latter is the inverse piezoelectric response and the response responsible for actuation.

An actuator is essentially a motor, or a generator of motion, usually linear and limited in range. A piezo actuator will generate a linear displacement when an electric field is applied, and this displacement is also capable of applying a force, and therefore the actuator is capable of doing work. The amount of force that can be applied depends on the cross sectional area of the actuator.

The amount of movement that a piezo device can yield is equal to the amount of voltage applied times the d33 or the piezo electric coefficient. This piezoelectric coefficient, d33, is a figure of merit for the piezo material relating to the efficiency of the material in transferring the electrical energy to mechanical energy. Please note that this movement does not depend on the dimensions of the piezo element. Therefore, when one stacks piezo elements together, there is a multiplying effect on the amount of movement that is achieved. However, the amount of voltage that can be applied will depend on the material and the thickness of each element. A stack of 2 piezo elements will have twice the movement at the same applied voltage as a single piezo element, and a stack of 3 piezo elements will exhibit 3 times the movement as a single element with the same applied voltage, etc. This is the basis for multilayer actuators.

Multilayer actuators are essentially many stacked layers of piezo material acting in concert. There are low voltage actuators, usually operating at up to 200 volts, and high voltage actuators operating at up to 1000 volts.

Low voltage actuators are co-fired multilayer actuators. These have very thin ceramic layers that are made by casting a ceramic / organic slurry to form a tape, dried, electroded with a thin precious metal electrode, usually a silver palladium electrode, the electrode tape is stacked, laminated, and fired to a dense ceramic / electrode package. The fired package is cut to size exposing the electrodes and the electrical connections are made. The stack is poled by applying a DC field to activate the piezo material and a protective insulating coating is applied.

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High voltage actuators are constructed with discrete sintered, poled ceramic disks, rings or plates with thin metal leaf electrodes interlaced between the ceramics. The device is bonded together with a high quality adhesive. These stack actuators are often enclosed in metal casing with an appropriate pre stress applied. Other options for these actuators can be casings specially designed to manage the heat generated during operation, or include the possibility of position sensing for the piezoelectric stack actuator.

Piezo actuator movements will be on the order of a hundred micro meters supporting a load of 7 kN/cm2. Therefore one must be aware of the advantages of piezo actuators to be sure that they are the correct choice for the application compared to conventional motors.

The advantages of piezo motors over conventional motors are: Fast response without delay, Very high acceleration rates, Very high power generation, Compact design, High mechanical power density, Consumes power only when motion is generated, Operates in vacuum and at Cryogenic conditions, have no rotating parts, and are unaffected by magnetic fields.

Care must be taken when mounting piezo actuators that all resulting applied stress on the actuator is axial and is a purely compressive stress. Piezo actuators can be designed with various end pieces to ensure appropriate loading.

Applications for piezo actuators include fiber modulation for communications, precise positioning devices, proportioning valves, electrical switches, micro pumps, ink jet printers, and anti-vibration devices.

APC carries a variety of piezo actuator power supplies / amplifiers to operate our piezo actuators in your electromechanical system.

Low Voltage Piezoelectric Stack Actuators (150 V maximum)

(a x b x l, mm)
up to (N)
45-1090 Pst150/2×3/5 2x3x5 6.5 5 70 150 45 300
45-1140 Pst150/2×3/7 2x3x9 13 9 170 100 25 300
45-1141 Pst150/2×3/20 2x3x18 28 20 340 50 12 300
45-1142 Pst150/3.5×3.5/7 3.5×3.5×9 13 9 350 100 50 800
45-1143 Pst150/3.5×3.5/20 3.5×3.5×18 28 20 800 50 25 800
45-1080 Pst150/5×5/7 5x5x9 13 9 800 100 120 1600
45-1130 Pst150/5×5/20 5x5x18 28 20 1800 50 60 1600
45-1150 Pst150/7×7/20 7x7x18 28 20 3600 50 120 3500
45-1160 Pst150/10×10/20 10x10x18 28 20 7200 50 250 7000
Custom Custom
Values to be Determined by Customer and APC International

*Semi-bipolar activation -30 to +150 volts **Unipolar activation 0 to +150 volts

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Have questions about APC International’s piezo products? Contact us or call us at 570.273.0014 to learn more information.

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