Piezoelectricity (/ˌpz-, ˌpts-, pˌz-/, US: /piˌz-, piˌts-/)[1] is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials—such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA, and various proteins—in response to applied mechanical stress.[2] The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure and latent heat. It is derived from the Greek word πιέζειν; piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and ἤλεκτρον ēlektron, which means amber, an ancient source of electric charge.[3][4]

Piezoelectric balance presented by Pierre Curie to Lord Kelvin, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

The piezoelectric effect results from the linear electromechanical interaction between the mechanical and electrical states in crystalline materials with no inversion symmetry.[5] The piezoelectric effect is a reversible process: materials exhibiting the piezoelectric effect 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. The inverse piezoelectric effect is used in the production of ultrasound waves.[6]

French physicists Jacques and Pierre Curie discovered piezoelectricity in 1880.[7] The piezoelectric effect has been exploited in many useful applications, including the production and detection of sound, piezoelectric inkjet printing, generation of high voltage electricity, as a clock generator in electronic devices, in microbalances, to drive an ultrasonic nozzle, and in ultrafine focusing of optical assemblies. It forms the basis for scanning probe microscopes that resolve images at the scale of atoms. It is used in the pickups of some electronically amplified guitars and as triggers in most modern electronic drums.[8][9] The piezoelectric effect also finds everyday uses, such as generating sparks to ignite gas cooking and heating devices, torches, and cigarette lighters.