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Bionic Type Piezoelectric Actuators

Written By

Shupeng Wang and Jianping Li

Submitted: February 5th, 2022 Reviewed: February 16th, 2022 Published: March 17th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.103765

IntechOpen
Piezoelectric Actuators Edited by Tinghai Cheng

From the Edited Volume

Piezoelectric Actuators [Working Title]

Prof. Tinghai Cheng and Dr. Jianping Li

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Abstract

Piezoelectric actuators have been applied in many research and industrial fields. However, how to improve the working performance of piezoelectric actuators is still a hot issue. Up to now, many new motion principles have been developed for new piezoelectric actuators. The bionic type piezoelectric actuator is a kind of the novel piezoelectric actuators, and it imitates the motion style of different creatures in nature to overcome the limitation of traditional piezoelectric actuators. Bionic type piezoelectric actuators are able to achieve large working stroke or large output force, which is of great significance for the development of piezoelectric actuators. The principle, design, and future of some bionic type piezoelectric actuators are discussed in this chapter.

Keywords

  • bionic piezoelectric actuator
  • inchworm actuator
  • seal actuator
  • stepping
  • long-range

1. Introduction

With the rapid development of science and engineering, ultra-precision positioning technology has been gradually becoming a common supporting technology in many fields such as integrated circuit, optical engineering, high-end manufacturing, biomedicine, and MEMS [1, 2, 3]. The actuator, which plays a big role, is one of the key parts in the ultra-precision positioning system. The stable output with millimeter-scale stroke and nanometer-scale resolution is the basic capacity for the actuator. Besides, other characteristics, such as quick response, wide speed range, and large loading capacity, are also important [4, 5]. The traditional actuators, such as stepping motors, hydraulics, and pneumatics equipment, have lots of advantages, including adequate positioning range, high stiffness, and large load capacity. Nevertheless, some performance defects, such as cumulative positioning error, wind up, and lost motion, cannot be eliminated [6, 7].

In order to acquire better performance of the actuators, some smart functional materials are developed as the actuating materials, such as piezoelectric materials [8], shape memory alloys [9], magnetostrictive materials [10], electrostrictive materials [11], and photostrictive materials [12]. Compared with other ones, piezoelectric materials possess many structural and functional advantages, such as large stiffness, compact size, quick response, high resolution, powerful output, and easy control. Therefore, they have been utilized in ultra-precision positioning systems more widely [13, 14]. Piezoelectric materials are crystals that have no inversion symmetry structures. Under external electric field, they can generate deformations because of the rotation of the internal electric domain by the inverse piezoelectric effect. All dielectric materials generate an electrostriction effect, but only crystal structures with no inversion symmetry can produce piezoelectric effect [12]. For electrostrictive materials, the relationship between the deformation and the electric field is parabolic, while for piezoelectric materials, it is linear [12]. Moreover, under different signal voltages, the piezoelectric materials can generate reversible expanding, contracting, and rotating deformations in one component [15]. Although the piezoelectric materials possess so many excellent characteristics, it is difficult to overcome a defect that the deformation of the piezoelectric materials is small [4, 5]. Due to the above defect, it is difficult to make use of the strain of the piezoelectric materials under the external electric field in the engineering world [16, 17]. Therefore, it has become a hot issue to develop piezoelectric actuators with a long work range and other excellent performance.

To make the piezoelectric actuator produce a long work range, researchers from all over the world propose a great many principles. The first principle is that a number of single layer piezoelectric components are stacked to form one multilayer piezoelectric actuator which can be called piezo-stack actuator. Using this method, many small deformations from the single-layer piezoelectric components can be concatenated to produce a long displacement of the multilayer piezoelectric actuator [18, 19]. The working range of a piezo-stack actuator can reach 0.1% to 0.15% of its dimension [20, 21]. The second principle is to utilize some designed mechanisms to enlarge the small deformation of the piezoelectric materials, such as lever mechanisms and polygon mechanisms. Using these enlarging mechanisms, we can obtain the submillimeter scale work range of the piezoelectric actuator [22, 23]. The third principle is the stepping principle which imitates some animals’ movement behavior to repeat and accumulate numerous small displacements of the piezoelectric materials until an adequate stroke is achieved [24, 25, 26, 27]. Many stepping-type piezoelectric actuators are bionic type piezoelectric actuators. The fourth principle is the ultrasonic driving principle which uses the high-frequency vibrations of the piezoelectric materials to drive the output component to produce large displacements [28, 29, 30].

This chapter introduces the working principle of the piezoelectric actuators with a long work range, especially the bionic type piezoelectric actuators. The actuators can be classified as linear ones and rotary ones. This chapter is mainly elaborated from the linear actuators. But the theories in this chapter are also suitable for the rotary actuators. The organization of the chapter is shown in Figure 1. The chapter is designed as follows: In Section 2, the piezoelectric materials and the piezoelectric effects are introduced briefly. In Section 3, the inchworm type actuators are elaborated, which are classified into the walker type, the pusher type, and the mixed type. In Section 4, we describe the seal type actuators including the walker type, the pusher type, and the mixed type. In Section 5, the characteristics of the bionic actuators are analyzed. In the last section, the conclusions of the chapter are given.

Figure 1.

The chapter organization.

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2. Piezoelectric effects

Piezoelectric materials are kind of crystals that have no inversion symmetry structures. As is known to all, under an external electric field, piezoelectric materials can generate deformations because of the rotation of the internal electric domain. When it comes to piezoelectric materials, piezoelectric effects are the most special functional characteristics including the direct piezoelectric effect and the converse piezoelectric effect [31, 32, 33, 34]. When the mechanical stress is applied to the piezoelectric materials, electric charges can be produced on the electrodes of the piezoelectric materials, which is called the direct piezoelectric effect. Conversely, when electric voltages are applied on the electrodes of the piezoelectric materials, mechanical deformations can be generated on the piezoelectric materials, which is called the converse piezoelectric effect [33, 34]. In a real application, using the direct piezoelectric effect, piezoelectric materials can be employed as sensors. Using the converse piezoelectric effect, piezoelectric materials can be employed as actuators [33, 34].

PZT (Pb (ZrxTi1 − x)O3) is a kind of piezoelectric ceramic material with excellent performance which has been used widely. Usually, PZT can be manufactured to be sheet, circular, ring, block, and so on. For the piezoelectric materials, there are three key parameters influencing the piezoelectric effects: the output strain δ, polarization field P,and actuation field E. According to the orientations of the three key parameters, the piezoelectric actuators can function in three working modes: longitudinal mode, transversal mode, and shear mode [35, 36]. As Figure 2(a) shows, in the manufacturing process, a block of piezoelectric material is polarized and the polarization field is P. The coordinate system on the piezoelectric material is established and the six-coordinate axes are named x(1), y(2), z(3), θx(4), θy(5) and θz(6), respectively. The electric field Eis applied to actuate the piezoelectric material. If the actuation field Eand the polarization field Phave the same direction or the opposite direction, deformations from the longitudinal direction and the transversal direction are generated simultaneously, which are named δhand δl, respectively. Correspondingly, these are the longitudinal mode and transversal mode of the piezoelectric material, respectively (see Figure 2(b)). If the actuation field Eand the polarization field Phave the vertical directions, deformation from the shear direction is generated, which is named δs. This is the shear mode of the piezoelectric material (see Figure 2(c)) [35, 36].

Figure 2.

Converse piezoelectric effect [32]. (a) Actuation and polarization fields; (b) longitudinal and transversal modes; (c) shear mode.

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3. Inchworm actuators

The inchworm is a kind of insect in nature, which moves by wriggle. The researchers found that the inchworm has special body structures including a flexible body and numerous feet. The flexible body can be bent and the feet are on the head end and the tail end of the body. When the inchworm moves, it grips the tree trunk firstly with its forefeet on the head end of the body. Next, the inchworm bends its flexible body and pulls forward the hindfeet on the tail end of the body. Then, it grips the tree trunk with its hindfeet. Afterward, the inchworm releases the forefeet from the tree trunk. Then, it straightens the flexible body and pushes forward the forefeet. Finally, the inchworm grips the tree trunk again with its forefeet and releases the hindfeet from the tree trunk. After the above actions, the inchworm has moved forward with one step and reverts to the initial status. If the above process is repeated continuously, the inchworm can move forward continuously on the tree trunk.

Inspired by the wriggle mode of the inchworm, the researchers develop the inchworm type actuators driven by the piezoelectric materials. Similarity with the body structures of the inchworm, the inchworm type piezoelectric actuator is composed of a feeding component and two clamping components, which imitate the flexible body, forefeet, and hindfeet of the inchworm respectively. As shown in Figure 3, according to the relative position relationship of the feeding component and two clamping components, the inchworm actuator is classified as walker type, pusher type, and mixed type. As shown in Figure 3(a), the walker type actuator is whose feeding component and two clamping components are all designed on the mover. During the process of the walker type actuator running, all of the feeding component and two clamping components are pushed with the mover. As shown in Figure 3(b), the pusher type actuator is whose feeding component and two clamping components are all designed on the stator. During the process of the pusher type actuator running, none of the feeding component and two clamping components is pushed with the mover. As shown in Figure 3(c), the mixed type actuator combines the structural features of the walker and pusher piezoelectric actuators. Either the feeding component or the two clamping components is designed on the mover and the other component is designed on the stator. During the process of the pusher type actuator running, Either the feeding component or the two clamping components is pushed with the mover and the other component is fixed on the stator.

Figure 3.

Operating principles of inchworm actuators [32]. (a) Walker type; (b) pusher type; (c) mixed type.

The operating principles for the three types of inchworm actuators are shown in Figure 3 and introduced as follows:

  1. The operating principle of the walker type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the walker actuator;

    2. The left clamping component operates and clamps the left end of the stator;

    3. The feeding component functions and pushes the right end of the mover rightwards;

    4. The right clamping component operates and clamps the right end of the stator;

    5. The left clamping component resets and releases the left end of the stator;

    6. The feeding component resets and pulls the left end of the mover rightwards;

    7. The left clamping component operates and clamps the left end of the stator again;

    8. The right clamping component resets and releases the right end of the stator. The actuator reverts to step (1).

    After the above actions, the mover of the walker actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If steps (1) to (7) are repeated continuously, the walker inchworm actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the clamping components are changed.

  2. The operating principle of the pusher type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the pusher actuator;

    2. The right clamping component operates and clamps the right end of the mover;

    3. The feeding component functions and pushes the mover rightwards;

    4. The left clamping component operates and clamps the left end of the mover;

    5. The right clamping component resets and releases the right end of the mover;

    6. The feeding component resets and pulls the right end of the stator leftwards;

    7. The right clamping component operates and clamps the right end of the mover again;

    8. The left clamping component resets and releases the left end of the mover. The actuator reverts to step (1).

    After the above actions, the mover of the pusher actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If steps (1) to (7) are repeated continuously, the pusher inchworm actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the clamping components are changed.

  3. The operating principle of the mixed type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the mixed actuator;

    2. The left clamping component operates and clamps the left end of the mover;

    3. The feeding component functions and pushes the right end of the mover rightwards;

    4. The right clamping component operates and clamps the right end of the mover;

    5. The left clamping component resets and releases the left end of the mover;

    6. The feeding component resets and pulls the left end of the mover rightwards;

    7. The left clamping component operates and clamps the left end of the mover again;

    8. The right clamping component resets and releases the right end of the mover. The actuator reverts to step (1).

After the above actions, the mover of the mixed actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If steps (1) to (7) are repeated continuously, the mixed inchworm actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the clamping components are changed. Generally, the electric signals to drive the inchworm actuator are usually the rectangular wave signal or trapezoidal wave signal.

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4. Seal actuators

The seal is a kind of mammal living in the ocean. It is found that the seal has a flexible body with the contracting ability, two forefeet with the walking ability, and two hindfeet losing the walking ability. When the seal moves, it grips the sand beach firstly with its forefeet. Next, the seal contracts its flexible body and pulls forward the tail and the hindfeet. Then, it releases the forefeet from the sand beach. Afterwards, the seal stretches the flexible body and pushes forward the head and the forefeet. Finally, the seal grips the sand beach again with its forefeet. After the above actions, the seal has moved forward with one step and reverts to the initial status. If the above process is repeated continuously, the seal can move forward continuously on the sand beach.

Inspired by the wriggle mode of the seal, the researchers develop the seal-type actuators driven by piezoelectric materials. The inchworm type actuator consists of two clamping components that are both intermittent clamping mechanisms that can generate intermittent clamping force as required. If one of the two intermittent type clamping components is replaced by a persistent clamping component that can only generate constant clamping force, the inchworm type actuator will be changed into a seal type actuator. Similarity with the body structures of the seal, the seal type piezoelectric actuator is composed of a feeding component, an intermittent clamping component, and a persistent clamping component, which imitate the flexible body, the forefeet, and the hindfeet of the seal respectively.

As shown in Figure 4, according to the relative position relationship of the feeding component, the intermittent clamping component, and the persistent clamping component, the seal actuator is classified to walker type, pusher type, and mixed type. As shown in Figure 4(a), the walker type actuator is whose feeding component, intermittent clamping component and persistent clamping component are all designed on the mover. During the process of the walker type actuator running, all of the feeding component, the intermittent clamping component, and the persistent clamping component are pushed with the mover. As shown in Figure 4(b), the pusher type actuator is whose feeding component, intermittent clamping component and persistent clamping component are all designed on the stator. During the process of the pusher type actuator running, none of the feeding component, the intermittent clamping component, and the persistent clamping component is pushed with the mover. As shown in Figure 4(c), the mixed type actuator combines the structural features of the walker and pusher piezoelectric actuators. One of the feeding component, the intermittent clamping component and the persistent clamping component is designed on the mover, and the other components are designed on the stator. During the process of the pusher type actuator running, one of the feeding component, the intermittent clamping component and the persistent clamping component is pushed with the mover and the other components are fixed on the stator.

Figure 4.

Operating principles of seal actuators [32]. (a) Walker type; (b) pusher type; (c) mixed type.

The operating principles for the three types of seal actuators are shown in Figure 4 and introduced as follows:

  1. The operating principle of the walker type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the walker actuator;

    2. The feeding component functions and pushes rightwards the intermittent clamping component on the right side of the mover;

    3. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the mover operates and clamps the right side of the stator;

    4. The feeding component resets and pulls rightwards the persistent clamping component on the left side of the mover;

    5. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the mover resets and releases from the right side of the stator. The actuator reverts to step (0).

    After the above actions, the mover of the walker actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If the steps (0) to (4) are repeated continuously, the walker seal actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the intermittent clamping component are changed.

  2. The operating principle of the pusher type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the pusher actuator;

    2. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the stator operates and clamps the right side of the mover;

    3. The feeding component functions and pushes rightwards the mover;

    4. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the stator resets and releases from the right side of the mover;

    5. The feeding component resets and pulls leftwards the intermittent clamping component on the right side of the stator. The actuator reverts to step (0).

    After the above actions, the mover of the pusher actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If the steps (0) to (4) are repeated continuously, the pusher seal actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the intermittent clamping component are changed.

  3. The operating principle of the mixed type actuator:

    1. The initial status of the mixed actuator;

    2. The feeding component functions and pushes rightwards the right side of the mover;

    3. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the stator operates and clamps the right side of the mover;

    4. The feeding component resets and pulls rightwards the left side of the mover;

    5. The intermittent clamping component on the right side of the stator resets and releases from the right side of the mover. The actuator reverts to step (0).

After the above actions, the mover of the mixed actuator has moved rightwards with one step. If the steps (0) to (4) are repeated continuously, the mixed seal actuator can move rightwards to output long-range displacement step by step. The backward motion can be generated if the operating sequences of feeding component and the intermittent clamping component are changed. Generally, the electric signals to drive the seal actuator are usually the rectangular wave signal, the trapezoidal wave signal or the triangular wave signal.

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5. Characteristic analysis of the bionic actuators

The inchworm actuator and the seal actuator are the commonest bionic type piezoelectric actuators, which are also the stepping type actuators. With the stepping driving principles, the piezoelectric actuators are completely free of the micro deformations of the piezoelectric materials and are able to generate the long-range displacements as required step by step. Therefore, the output displacements can reach numerous millimeters, or even without limit. The characteristics of the two types of bionic actuators are presented in Table 1.

Item\TypeInchwormSeal
StructureComplexCompact
ResolutionMediumHigh
CapacitylargeSmall
VelocityLowHigh
ControlComplexSimple

Table 1.

Characteristics of the bionic actuators.

The inchworm actuator has a complex configuration while the structure of the seal actuator is compact. Thus, if there are requirements for the space and the weight, the seal actuator is preferred. Generally, the resolution of the seal actuator is higher than that of the inchworm. Hence, we use the seal actuator a lot to achieve more precise operation. The inchworm actuator has a larger load capacity than the seal actuator, so we can select the inchworm actuator when we need the large output force. If high speed is required, the seal actuator is more appropriate. Because the seal actuator is able to generate higher velocity than the inchworm actuator. In addition, the seal actuator is easier to control than the inchworm actuator. Because the inchworm actuator has more moving executive components. In application, we can select and use an appropriate type of bionic actuators according to Table 1.

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6. Conclusions

In this chapter, the bionic type piezoelectric actuators with long-range outputs are introduced. Firstly, we present the frequently-used piezoelectric materials and the piezoelectric effects including the direct piezoelectric effect and the converse piezoelectric effect. Next, the inchworm type actuators are elaborated, which are classified into the walker type, the pusher type, and the mixed type. Then, we describe the seal type actuators including the walker type, the pusher type, and the mixed type. Afterwards, the characteristics of the bionic actuators are discussed. The configurations, classifications, principles, connections, and distinctions of the bionic type actuators are all presented in the chapter. We not only analyze the advantages and disadvantages for each type, but also discuss the derivation relationships among the actuators. This chapter conduces to readers to study the bionic piezoelectric actuators and is conducive to accomplish effective designs and future breakthroughs in technology.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Talent Introduction Fund of Jilin University under Grant 451210330007.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Written By

Shupeng Wang and Jianping Li

Submitted: February 5th, 2022 Reviewed: February 16th, 2022 Published: March 17th, 2022