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Piezoelectricity is the charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (notably crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure. It is derived from the Greek piezo or piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and electric or electron, which stands for amber, an ancient source of electric charge. Piezoelectricity was discovered in 1880 by French physicists Jacques and Pierre Curie.
The piezoelectric effect is understood as the linear electromechanical interaction between the mechanical and the electrical state in crystalline materials with no inversion symmetry. The piezoelectric effect is a reversible process in that materials exhibiting the direct piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of electrical charge resulting from an applied mechanical force) also exhibit the reverse piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of a mechanical strain resulting from an applied electrical field).
For example, lead zirconate titanate crystals will generate measurable piezoelectricity when their static structure is deformed by about 0.1% of the original dimension. Conversely, those same crystals will change about 0.1% of their static dimension when an external electric field is applied to the material.
Piezoelectricity is found in useful applications such as the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, electronic frequency generation, microbalances, and ultrafine focusing of optical assemblies. It is also the basis of a number of scientific instrumental techniques with atomic resolution, the scanning probe microscopies such as STM, AFM, MTA, SNOM, etc., and everyday uses such as acting as the ignition source for cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues.
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