Modeling and Testing of PZT and PVDF Piezoelectric Wafer Active Sensors

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Engineering, Mechanical Engineering


Piezoelectric wafer active sensors (PWAS) used in structural health monitoring (SHM) applications are able to detect structural damage using Lamb waves. PWAS are small, lightweight, unobtrusive and inexpensive. They achieve direct transduction between electric and elastic wave energies. PWAS are charge mode sensors and can be used as both transmitters and receivers. The focus of this paper is to find a suitable in situ piezoelectric active sensor for sending and receiving Lamb waves to be used in the SHM of structures with a curved surface. Current SHM technology uses brittle piezoceramic (PZT) wafer active sensors. Since piezoceramics are brittle, this approach could only be used on flat surfaces. The motivation of our research was to explore the use of flexible piezoelectric materials, e.g. piezoelastic polymers such as PVDF. However, PVDF stiffness is orders of magnitude lower than the PZT stiffness, and hence PVDF Lamb wave transmitters are much weaker than PZT transmitters. Thus, our research proceeded in two main directions: (a) to model and understand how piezoelectric material properties affect the behaviour of piezoelectric wafer active sensors; and (b) to perform experiments to test the capabilities of the flexible PVDF PWAS in comparison with those of stiffer but brittle PZT PWAS. We have shown that, with appropriate signal amplification, PVDF PWAS can perform the same Lamb wave transmission and reception functions currently performed by PZT PWAS. The experimental results of PZT-PWAS and PVDF-PWAS have been compared with a conventional strain gauge. The theoretical and experimental results in this study gave a basic demonstration of the piezoelectricity of PZT-PWAS and PVDF-PWAS.