piezoelectric effect [key], voltage produced between surfaces of a solid dielectric (nonconducting substance) when a mechanical stress is applied to it. A small current may be produced as well. The effect, discovered by Pierre Curie in 1883, is exhibited by certain crystals, e.g., quartz and Rochelle salt, and ceramic materials. When a voltage is applied across certain surfaces of a solid that exhibits the piezoelectric effect, the solid undergoes a mechanical distortion. Piezoelectric materials are used in transducers, e.g., phonograph cartridges, microphones, and strain gauges, which produce an electrical output from a mechanical input, and in earphones and ultrasonic radiators, which produce a mechanical output from an electrical input. Piezoelectric solids typically resonate within narrowly defined frequency ranges; when suitably mounted they can be used in electric circuits as components of highly selective filters or as frequency-control devices for very stable oscillators.
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