Tables for
Volume A
Space-group symmetry
Edited by M. I. Aroyo

International Tables for Crystallography (2016). Vol. A, ch. 3.2, p. 741

Section Piezoelectricity

H. Klappera and Th. Hahna Piezoelectricity

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In piezoelectric crystals, an electric dipole moment can be induced by compressional and torsional stress. For a uniaxial compression, the induced moment may be parallel, normal or inclined to the compression axis. These cases are called longitudinal, transverse or mixed compressional piezoeffect, respectively. Correspondingly, for torsional stress, the electric moment may be parallel, normal or inclined to the torsion axis.

The piezoelectricity is described by a third-rank tensor, the moduli of which vanish for all centrosymmetric point groups. Additionally, in class 432, all piezoelectric moduli are zero owing to the high symmetry. Thus, piezoelectricity can only occur in 20 noncentrosymmetric crystal classes (Table[link]).

The piezoelectric point groups 422 and 622 show the following peculiarity: there is no direction for which a longitudinal component of the electric moment is induced under uniaxial compression. Thus, no longitudinal or mixed compressional effects occur. The moment is always normal to the compression axis (pure transverse compressional effect). This means that, with the compression pistons as electrodes, no electric charges can be found, since only transverse compressional or torsional piezoeffects occur. In all other piezoelectric classes, there exist directions in which both longitudinal and transverse components of the electric dipole moment are induced under uniaxial compression.

An electric moment can also develop under hydrostatic pressure. This kind of piezoelectricity, like pyroelectricity, can be represented by a first-rank tensor (vector), whereby the hydrostatic pressure is regarded as a scalar. Thus, piezoelectricity under hydrostatic pressure is subject to the same symmetry constraints as pyroelectricity.

Like `second-harmonic generation' (Section[link]), the piezoelectric effect is very useful for testing crystals for the absence of a symmetry centre. There exist powerful methods for testing powder samples or even small single crystals. In the old technique of Giebe & Scheibe (cf. Wooster & Brenton, 1970[link]), the absorption and emission of radio-frequency energy by electromechanical oscillations of piezoelectric particles are detected. In the more modern method of observing `polarization echoes', radio-frequency pulses are applied to powder samples. By this procedure, electromechanical vibration pulses are induced in piezoelectric particles, the echoes of which can be detected (cf. Melcher & Shiren, 1976[link]).


Melcher, R. L. & Shiren, N. S. (1976). Polarization echoes and long-time storage in piezoelectric powders. Phys. Rev. Lett. 36, 888–891.
Wooster, W. A. & Brenton, A. (1970). Experimental Crystal Physics, especially ch. 6. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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