Durability and Survivability of Piezoelectric Wafer Active Sensors on Metallic Structures

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Engineering, Mechanical Engineering


Piezoelectric wafer active sensors are small, inexpensive, noninvasive, elastic wave generators/receptors that can be easily affixed to a structure. Piezoelectric wafer active sensor installation on the health-monitored structure is an important step that may have significant bearing on the success of the health monitoring process. The purpose of this paper is to explore the durability and survivability issues associated with various environmental conditions on piezoelectric wafer active sensors for structural health monitoring. The durability and survivability of the piezoelectric wafer active sensor transducers under various exposures (cryogenic and high temperature, temperature cycling, outdoor environment, operational fluids, large strains, fatigue load cycling) were considered over a long period of time. Both free piezoelectric wafer active sensors and bonded piezoelectric wafer active sensors on metallic structural substrates were used. Different adhesives and protective coatings were compared to find the candidate for piezoelectric wafer active sensor application in structural health monitoring. In most cases, piezoelectric wafer active sensors survived the tests successfully. The cases when piezoelectric wafer active sensors did not survive the tests were closely examined and possible causes of failure were discussed. The test results indicate that lead zirconate titanate piezoelectric wafer active sensors can be uccessfully used in a cryogenic environment; however, it does not seem to be a good candidate for high temperature. Repeated differential thermal expansion and extended environmental attacks can lead to piezoelectric wafer active sensor failure. This emphasizes the importance of achieving the proper design of the adhesive bond between the piezoelectric wafer active sensor and the structure, and of using a protective coating to minimize the ingression of adverse agents. The high-strain tests indicated that the piezoelectric wafer active sensors remained operational up to at least 3000 microstrain and failed beyond 6000 microstrain. In the fatigue cyclic loading, conducted up to 12 millions of cycles, the piezoelectric wafer active sensor transducers sustained at least as many fatigue cycles as the structural coupon specimens on which they were installed.