A Piezoelectric speaker or buzzer is a loudspeaker that uses the piezoelectric effect for generating sound. The initial mechanical motion is created by applying a voltage to a piezoelectric material, and this motion is typically converted into audible sound using diaphragms and resonators.
They are used in a wide variety of applications including tweeters, small loudspeakers for computers, watches and similar equipment, buzzers etc. They are also used for producing ultrasound in sonar systems. Typically they operate well in the range of 1-5kHz and up to 100kHz in ultrasound applications.
Compared to other speaker designs piezoelectric speakers are relatively easy to drive; for example they can be connected directly to TTL outputs, although more complex drivers can give greater sound intensity.
Piezoelectric speakers are frequently used as beepers in watches and other electronic devices, and are sometimes used as tweeters in less-expensive speaker systems, such as computer speakers and portable radios. Piezoelectric speakers have several advantages over conventional loudspeakers: they are resistant to overloads that would normally destroy most high frequency drivers, and they can be used without a crossover due to their electrical properties. There are also disadvantages: some amplifiers can oscillate when driving capacitive loads like most piezoelectrics, which results in distortion or damage to the amplifier. Additionally, their frequency response, in most cases, is inferior to that of other technologies. This is why they are generally used in single frequency (beeper) or non-critical applications.
Piezoelectric speakers can have extended high frequency output, and this is useful in some specialized circumstances; for instance, sonar applications in which piezoelectric variants are used as both output devices (generating underwater sound) and as input devices (acting as the sensing components of underwater microphones). They have advantages in these applications, not the least of which is simple and solid state construction that resists seawater better than a ribbon or cone based device would.
In 2013, Kyocera introduced piezoelectric ultra-thin medium-size film speakers with only 1 milimeter of thickness and 7 grams of weight for their 55" OLED televisions and they hope the speakers will also be used in PCs and tablets. Besides medium-size, there are also large and small sizes which can all produce relatively the same quality of sound and volume within 180 degrees. The highly responsive speaker material provides better clarity than traditional TV speakers.
A piezo (or piezo-electric) tweeter contains a piezoelectric crystal coupled to a mechanical diaphragm. An audio signal is applied to the crystal, which responds by flexing in proportion to the voltage applied across the crystal's surfaces, thus converting electrical energy into mechanical. The conversion of electrical pulses to mechanical vibrations and the conversion of returned mechanical vibrations back into electrical energy is the basis for ultrasonic testing. The active element is the heart of the transducer as it converts the electrical energy to acoustic energy, and vice versa. The active element is basically a piece of polarized material (i.e. some parts of the molecule are positively charged, while other parts of the molecule are negatively charged) with electrodes attached to two of its opposite faces. When an electric field is applied across the material, the polarized molecules will align themselves with the electric field, resulting in induced dipoles within the molecular or crystal structure of the material. This alignment of molecules will cause the material to change dimensions. This phenomenon is known as electrostriction. In addition, a permanently polarized material such as quartz (SiO2) or barium titanate (BaTiO3) will produce an electric field when the material changes dimensions as a result of an imposed mechanical force. This phenomenon is known as the piezoelectric effect.