Tables for
Volume D
Physical properties of crystals
Edited by A. Authier

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. D, ch. 1.1, p. 12

Section Pyroelectricity

A. Authiera*

aInstitut de Minéralogie et de la Physique des Milieux Condensés, Bâtiment 7, 140 rue de Lourmel, 75015 Paris, France
Correspondence e-mail: Pyroelectricity

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Pyroelectricity is the property presented by certain materials that exhibit electric polarization when the temperature is changed uniformly. Actually, this property appears in crystals for which the centres of gravity of the positive and negative charges do not coincide in the unit cell. They present therefore a spontaneous polarization that varies with temperature because, owing to thermal expansion, the distances between these centres of gravity are temperature dependent. A very important case is that of the ferroelectric crystals where the direction of the polarization can be changed under the application of an external electric field.

From the viewpoint of symmetry, pyroelectricity can be considered as the superposition of two causes, namely the crystal with its symmetry on one hand and the increase of temperature, which is isotropic, on the other. The intersection of the groups of symmetry of the two causes is in this case identical to the group of symmetry of the crystal. The symmetry associated with the effect is that of the electric polarization that is produced, [A_{\infty }\infty M]. Since the asymmetry of the cause must pre-exist in the causes, the latter may not possess more than one axis of symmetry nor mirrors other than those parallel to the single axis. The only crystal point groups compatible with this condition are [1, 2, 3, 4, 6, m, 2mm, 3m, 4mm, 6mm.]There are therefore only ten crystallographic groups that are compatible with the pyroelectric effect. For instance, tourmaline, in which the effect was first observed, belongs to 3m.

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