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While being well adapted for sensor applications the monolayer products are not very well applied for actuator applications. To reach a useful displacement with monolayer you require a very high operating voltage, in the range of 500-1000V. In order to overcome this problem the multilayer technology was developed in the 1980s.

Basics on multilayer

A multilayer component is composed of several layers of piezoelectric material, alternating with internal electrodes. Internal electrodes are successively positive and negative. All positive electrodes are connected by one external electrode on one side of the component; negative electrodes are connected on the other side of the component.

The advantage of this approach is that a factor of 100 lower voltages can be used for the same displacement of actuators. For transformers, the multilayer approach allows for much higher transformation ratios than is possible with transformers based on monolayer piezoceramic material.

The multilayer approach enables designs with multiple functions e.g. integration of sensors in actuators or combination of actuator and generators as with the new transformer concept.

Common applications

Common applications for multilayer piezo products are actuators for micro positioning using stacks in the size range of 5mm x 5mm x 20mm, diesel fuel injection actuators using somewhat larger stacks and optical applications using smaller actuators for fine tuning of mirrors, fibres etc.

Have a look at our examples of applications using piezo components

Main differences between monolayer and multilayer

The main differences between these two methods are (for similar dimensions): 

  • Bulk components are easier to manufacture 
  • Multilayer components can be operated under higher electrical field, thus leading to larger static displacement 
  • Multilayer components can be operated under a lower voltage 
  • Bulk components have a lower capacitance 
  • Multilayer components are more resistant to humidity thanks to their embedded electrodes 
  • Multilayer components can be customised with complex electrode designs and multiple functions in the same component 
  • Some materials cannot be processed for multilayer components.

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