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Electrostriction (cf. magnetostriction) is a property of all electrical non-conductors, or dielectrics, that causes them to change their shape under the application of an electric field.


Electrostriction is a property of all dielectric materials, and is caused by the presence of randomly aligned electrical domains within the material. When an electric field is applied to the dielectric, the opposite sides of the domains become differently charged and attract each other, reducing material thickness in the direction of the applied field (and increasing thickness in the orthogonal directions characterized by Poisson's ratio). The resulting strain (ratio of deformation to the original dimension) is proportional to the square of the polarization. Reversal of the electric field does not reverse the direction of the deformation.

More formally, the electrostriction coefficient is a fourth rank tensor (Q_{ijkl}), relating second order strain (x_{ij}) and first order polarization tensors (P_k, P_l).

x_{ij} = Q_{ijkl} \times P_k \times P_l

The related piezoelectric effect occurs only in a particular class of dielectrics. Electrostriction applies to all crystal symmetries, while the piezoelectric effect only applies to the 20 piezoelectric point groups. Electrostriction is a quadratic effect, unlike piezoelectricity, which is a linear effect.


Although all dielectrics exhibit some electrostriction, certain engineered ceramics, known as relaxor ferroelectrics, have extraordinarily high electrostrictive constants. The most commonly used are

Magnitude of effect[edit]

Electrostriction can produce a strain of 0.1% at a field strength of 2 million volts per meter (2 MV/m) for the material called PMN-15 (TRS website listed in the references below). The effect appears to be quadratic at low field strengths (up to 0.3 MV/m) and roughly linear after that, up to a maximum field strength of 4 MV/m[citation needed]. Therefore, devices made of such materials are normally operated around a bias voltage in order to behave nearly linearly. This will probably cause deformations to lead to a change of electric charge, but this is unconfirmed.


  • Sonar projectors for submarines and surface vessels
  • Actuators for small displacements

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