Broadband Electromechanical Spectroscopy: Characterizing the Dynamic Mechanical Response of Viscoelastic Materials under Temperature and Electric Field Control in a Vacuum Environment


The viscoelasticity of a variety of active materials is controllable, e.g., by the application of electric or thermal fields. However, their viscoelastic behavior cannot be fully explored by current methods due to limitations in their control of mechanical, electrical, and thermal fields simultaneously. To close this gap, we introduce Broadband Electromechanical Spectroscopy (BES). For the specific apparatus developed, specimens are subjected to bending and torsional moments with frequencies up to 4 kHz and amplitudes up to 10-4 Nm (the method is sufficiently general to allow for higher and wider frequency ranges). Deflection/twist is measured and moments are applied in a contactless fashion to minimize the influence of the apparatus compliance and of spurious damping. Electric fields are applied to specimens via surface electrodes at frequencies up to 10 Hz and amplitudes up to 5 MV/m. Experiments are performed under vacuum to remove noise from the surrounding air. Using BES, the dynamic stiffness and damping in bending and torsion of a ferroelectric ceramic, lead zirconate titanate, were measured at room temperature, while applying large, cyclic electric fields to induce domain switching. Results reveal large increases of the specimen's damping capacity and softening of the modulus during domain switching. The effect occurs over wide ranges of mechanical frequencies and permits lowering of the resonance frequencies. This promises potential for using ferroelectrics for active vibration control beyond linear piezoelectricity. More generally, BES helps improve current understanding of microstructure kinetics (such as during domain switching) and how it relates to the macroscopic viscoelastic response of materials.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from United Technologies Research Center as well as from the Caltech Innovation Initiative (CI2).

Keywords and Phrases

Crystallography; Damping; Dynamics; Electric field effects; Electric fields; Ferroelectric ceramics; Ferroelectric materials; Semiconducting lead compounds; Viscoelasticity; Active vibration controls; Dynamic mechanical response; Electric-field control; Lead zirconate titanate; Linear piezoelectricity; Microstructure kinetics; Visco-elastic behaviors; Visco-elastic material; Vacuum applications

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0022-2461; 1573-4803

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2015 Kluwer Academic Publishers, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2015