History of pyroelectricity: from ancient Greece to space missions

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24 Scopus citations


Pyroelectricity was probably first observed by the Greeks more than 23 centuries ago. The philosopher Theophrastus wrote that lyngourion, probably the mineral tourmaline, had the property of attracting straws and bits of wood. For 2000 years, the peculiar properties of tourmaline were more a part of mythology than of science. In the 18th Century, pyroelectric studies made a major contribution to the development of our understanding of electrostatics. In the 19th Century, 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 20th 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 knowledge of astronomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
Issue number1 -4 pt 2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1999
EventProceedings of the 1998 2nd Asian Meeting on Ferrroelectricity (AMF-2) - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 7 Dec 199811 Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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