A 2400 year history of pyroelectricity: From ancient Greece to exploration of the solar system

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Abstract

Pyroelectricity was probably first observed by the Greeks more than 24 centuries ago. The philosopher Theophrastus wrote that lyngourion (most likely the mineral tourmaline) had the property of attracting straws and bits of wood. For two millennia the peculiar properties of tourmaline were more a part of mythology than of science. In the eighteenth century pyroelectric studies made a major contribution to the development of our understanding of electrostatics. In the nineteeth, research on pyroelectricity added to our knowledge of mineralogy, thermodynamics and crystal physics. Pyroelectricity gave birth to piezoelectricity in 1880, and to ferroelectricity in 1920. The field of pyroelectricity flourished in the twentieth century with many applications, particularly in infrared detection and thermal imaging. Pyroelectric sensors have been carried on many space missions and have contributed significantly to our astronomical knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-70
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Ceramic Transactions
Volume103
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004

Keywords

  • Ferroelectricity
  • History
  • Piezoelectricity
  • Pyroelectricity
  • Tourmaline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites

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