Piezoelectricity is the charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (notably crystals, certain ceramics and biological matter such as bone) in response to applied mechanical stress. Piezoelectricity is found in applications such as the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, generation of electrical signals with specified frequencies, microbalances and ultrafine focusing of optical assemblies. It also acts as an ignition source for cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues.
Piezoelectric, dielectric and electrostatic devices for frequency control, selection and detection, such as resonators, filters, oscillators and sensors, are key components in various pieces of electrical equipment. A quartz clock uses piezoelectricity, as does any cigarette lighter without a flint, and the charge that is generated is converted into an electrical frequency signal. Medical ultrasound devices create high-frequency acoustic vibrations using piezoelectric crystals. Piezoelectric devices are used in vehicles to control engines and audio systems and in aircraft attitude control systems. Loudspeakers use piezoelectricity to convert incoming electricity to sound.
Indispensable for communications
Rapidly evolving technologies and the spread of broadband and mobile communications have increased the need for higher frequency devices. Mobile phones are a good example. They require electrical components such as TCXO (temperature-compensated crystal oscillators), quartz resonators and SAW (surface acoustic wave) filters and duplexers. These are used for frequency control and selection.
In broadband high-end communication systems, a variety of frequency control and selection devices including VCXO (voltage-controlled crystal oscillators) or OCXO (oven-controlled crystal oscillators), dielectric filters and SAW filters are utilized as components. They offer attributes such as low noise, frequency stability, low loss and small size.
Making life easier
New technological developments have also brought better human-interface methods. As a result, wireless radio applications and sensing systems have become much more important in applications such as automobiles, robots or home automation. In short, the electronic industry cannot meet today’s needs and expand into the future without piezoelectric, dielectric and electrostatic devices for frequency control, selection and detection.
TC 49 regional outreach
The IEC TC 49 portfolio of publications plays an essential role in the B2B (business to business) commerce of piezoelectric devices, for example specifying standardized packaging and test methods for evaluating ageing.
The Singapore event brought together a total of 30 participants from IEC NCs and manufacturers from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
The event was organized by the Japanese Mirror Committee of IEC TC 49, supported by METI, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and hosted by the IEC-APRC (Asia Pacific Regional Centre).
Keeping pace with changing market demands
The technical and market environment in which IEC TC 49 operates was covered by its Secretary, Dr Toshihiro Kojima. In his presentation, he illustrated the multitude of applications of piezoelectric devices covering wired and wireless communications, multi-media equipment, personal computers and automotive electronics, with 50 to 60 applications of crystal devices in some high end models.
Dr Kojima then highlighted the evolution of activities since the creation of the technical committee in 1960.
Finally, future potential applications for piezoelectric devices were identified in EVs (electric vehicles), new wireless communication systems such as Cognitive Mobile Communications and ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), all of which will necessitate the use of IEC International Standards. Current and future potential developments strongly reinforce the need for increased participation in IEC TC 49 standardization work from South East Asian countries.
Challenges for the mobile communication market
The key note presentation was given by Kunihiro Kawai of NTT DoCoMo, the premier Japanese provider of leading-edge mobile voice, data and multimedia services. He illustrated the rapid growth of the mobile communication market, the current use of piezoelectric devices and NTT’s R&D vision addressing these future challenges. He concluded with the company’s expectations for piezoelectric, dielectric and MEMS (Micro-ElectroMechanical Systems).
IEC TC 49 has recently established a new WG (Working Group) 12: MEMS devices for frequency control, selection and detection. These new devices provide the potential for improved integration with other components in the product.
Masako Tanaka of Seiko Epson Corp, one of the world's largest manufacturers of computer printers, information and imaging related equipment, and Convenor of IEC TC 49 WG 9: Enclosures and related technology, underlined the use of quartz crystal TDs (timing devices) in tablet personal computers, mobile communications and automotive applications, highlighting the rapid market growth and future market/customer needs for improved performance.
The IEC and International Standardization
The remainder of the presentations focused on several IEC-related issues. Shigeyasu Hatsuyama of METI talked about the role and need for global and national standardization. Lee Toon Huat, ofSPRING, the Singapore national standards and accreditation body that hosts the Singapore IEC NC, presented the structure of an IEC NC with its national mirror committees and criteria for participating directly in IEC technical committee and sub-committee work. Dennis Chew of IEC-APRC described the IEC structure and how it operates and finally Dr Michael Casson of IEC Central Office explained the development process for IEC International Standards and IEC deliverables.
A valuable experience
Amran Abdul Manaf from Malaysia found the seminar a very valuable experience: “The seminar was conducted at the IEC Asia-Pacific Regional Centre itself, where we can get a lot of information related to IEC activities, and also guidance on how to participate in developing International Standards for our own company's benefit”.
The participants obtained a clear overview of the current and future activities of IEC TC 49, showing the important role that IEC standardization plays in this market and the benefits of active participation.