Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Karla M. Mossi


Piezoelectric composites have been investigated for use in a variety of areas, including flow control, structural control, energy harvesting, and fuel ignition systems. While many of the investigations conducted in these areas have utilized traditional piezo actuation systems, such as unimorphs or stack actuators, a growing number of research groups are examining the increased performance derived from the mechanical advantage, and enhanced domain rotation, found in prestressed unimorph designs. Prestressed devices, like Thunder® and LIPCA, have been shown well suited for a number of applications; however, the price associated with these devices can often prevent them from being implemented. In an effort to produce a low cost unimorph device that possesses a performance-enhancing curved form, the present investigation presents a novel technique for manufacturing prestressed piezoelectric actuators that are capable of meeting the same high displacement and load bearing capabilities exhibited by conventional prestressed devices. The newly proposed mechanically prestressed composite device, or MPC, is similar in form and function to well-documented thermally prestressed devices like Thunder®. However, rather than deriving its characteristic curved form from a thermally induced stress, the present class of devices relies on the resorting force incited in the piezoelectric ceramic upon adhesion to a mechanically deformed substrate to provide both the performance-enhancing prestress and final form of the device. To aid in refinement of the newly proposed design, beam theory was used to model the stress developed within the device. The model allowed designers to investigate the limitations imposed on the performance-enhancing curved form of the device by the stresses developed in the ceramic as a result of the curvature. Findings derived from the model were experimentally verified before a finalized design was specified for the composite, and a number of devices were manufactured. An initial characterization of the device was carried out based on the composite's response to mechanical and electrical loading. By determining the slope of the electrically and mechanically induced displacement response of the device, the investigation was able to define the center displacement constant and effective spring constant of the unimorph. These parameters not only allow designers to predict the displacement that will occur in response to a given electric field or tensile load, but also to allow for comparison with various devices. In the present investigation, the performance characteristics of mechanically prestressed composites were assessed as a function of substrate thicknesses and adhesive properties. With composites constructed using substrates approximately 9.2cm in length, devices were found to have typical center displacement constants on the order of 1.59 to 7.78kV/mm2 while retaining an effective stiffness between 4.5 to 7.5N/mm. These values were found to be similar to the .71 to 3.85kV/mm2 center displacement constants demonstrated by similarly sized and shaped Thunder® devices, which posses an effective stiffness in the range of 10 to 16.3N/mm. A comprehensive presentation of the test methods and procedures used to determine these values, along with other performance characteristics, are provided.


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Is Part Of

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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Engineering Commons