Physicists Reveal Functioning of Potential Lead-Free Material

Researchers wanting lead-free materials for use in sensors, ultrasonic motors and actuators have recently chosen a type of ceramic frequently referred to as BCZT to work with. A recent study by Physicists at the University of Arkansas reveals how this material functions, providing insights that may lead to other lead-free materials being created as well.

Yousra Nahas (Credit: University of Arkansas)

The hunt for a lead-free replacement that produces a strong piezoelectrical response – the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa (at room temperature) – is partially because of restrictions on dangerous substances in electronic and electrical equipment. BCZT is an abbreviation of the chemical compound barium calcium zirconate titanate. It has exhibited potential, but so far Scientists have not completely understood why.

In BCZT, a lead-free material, the piezoelectric response has been measured to be very large while the microscopic origin of the effect remained a matter of debate. It became important to unveil the origin of the effect in order to better gear the properties of this material to the technological challenges.

Yousra Nahas, Research Associate, University of Arkansas

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications on June 20th, University of Arkansas Researchers Nahas, Alireza Akbarzadeh, Sergei Prosandeev and Raymond Walter, together with Distinguished Professor of Physics Laurent Bellaiche, developed an atomic-level model of the BCZT material to reveal its piezoelectric secrets. They established that its piezoelectric response begins from a structure that permits for easier fluctuations in polarization over a limited temperature window around room temperature.

Besides providing a deeper understanding of how BCZT functions, the findings may direct the way for developing other lead-free piezoelectric substances by blending materials with necessary traits.

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