Piezoelectric transformers are a type of solid-state power transformer that utilize the piezoelectric effect to transfer electrical energy. Unlike traditional electromagnetic transformers that use coils and magnetic fields, piezoelectric transformers convert electrical energy into mechanical vibrations (acoustic waves) and then back into electrical energy. They are primarily used in low-power, high-frequency applications where compactness and efficiency are crucial. Here's how they function in power electronics:
Piezoelectric Effect: The functioning of piezoelectric transformers is based on the piezoelectric effect, which occurs in certain materials (like quartz, lead zirconate titanate - PZT, and others) that can convert mechanical stress or strain into electrical charge and vice versa. When subjected to an electrical potential, these materials experience mechanical deformation, generating acoustic waves (vibrations).
Input Section - Voltage Inversion: The piezoelectric transformer consists of an input section and an output section. In the input section, an alternating current (AC) voltage is applied to the piezoelectric material. The piezoelectric material vibrates at its resonant frequency due to the applied AC voltage. These vibrations are typically in the ultrasonic range (tens of kilohertz to several megahertz).
Coupling Mechanism: The vibrations generated by the input section propagate to the output section, which is usually designed to resonate at the same frequency as the input section. The coupling mechanism between the input and output sections can vary depending on the design of the transformer. The most common methods are longitudinal mode, radial mode, or thickness shear mode coupling.
Output Section - Voltage Rectification: In the output section, the mechanical vibrations received from the input section are converted back into an electrical voltage. This occurs through the reverse piezoelectric effect, where the mechanical deformation caused by the vibrations induces an electrical charge in the material. The output voltage generated is directly related to the input voltage and the mechanical properties of the piezoelectric material.
Voltage Step-up or Step-down: The transformation ratio of a piezoelectric transformer can be adjusted by changing the mechanical coupling between the input and output sections or by altering the dimensions of the piezoelectric material. This allows for voltage step-up or step-down, depending on the application requirements.
Advantages of Piezoelectric Transformers in Power Electronics:
High Frequency Operation: Piezoelectric transformers can operate at high frequencies, making them suitable for high-frequency switching applications.
Compact Size and Lightweight: Due to their solid-state nature and absence of heavy coils, piezoelectric transformers are more compact and lightweight compared to traditional electromagnetic transformers.
Efficiency: They can achieve high conversion efficiency when designed and operated at their resonant frequency.
Isolation: Piezoelectric transformers offer excellent electrical isolation between input and output, which can be advantageous in certain applications.
However, piezoelectric transformers also have some limitations, such as lower power handling capabilities compared to conventional transformers and sensitivity to temperature variations. As a result, they are mainly used in low-power, high-frequency applications where their advantages outweigh their limitations.