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Piezoelectric components for underwater acoustics

08 December 2021

INCREASING DEMAND for larger customised piezoelectric ceramic components for complex underwater acoustic sonar applications

The capabilities of piezoelectric (PZT) ceramics to convert a mechanical effect into an electric signal, and vice versa, are key for underwater acoustic applications. With a focus on hemispheres, discs, blocks and tubes, advanced ceramics firm CeramTec manufactures highly customised PZT components for underwater acoustic sonar applications for both passive and active systems. The company has manufacturing facilities in the UK and Germany.

“We see increasing demand for larger sized components which are key to some technically demanding sonar applications. This includes discs from 200mm up to 250mm diameter, hemispheres above 150mm and piezoceramic plates with thickness above 25mm,” said Paul Turnbull, piezoelectric and dielectric engineering manager at CeramTec UK. “Our teams in Ruabon and Southampton as well as in Lauf, Germany, have long-standing and specific expertise in this market segment and specific facilities to manufacture large piezoelectric components which achieve lower frequencies for certain sonar applications, which can mean detection at longer distances.”

CeramTec’s advanced manufacturing capabilities enable the delivery of piezoelectric solutions covering the full ranges of Navy Type I, II, III, VI and other custom formulations that are key for meeting the complex challenges of sonar technology applications. For example, hydrophones and towed arrays require long, thin wall tubes of up to 30mm length and a wall thickness range from 0.75mm to >2mm. This specific combination of length and very thin walls is demanding from a manufacturing perspective and alongside large piezoelectric parts another area of expertise of CeramTec’s sonar technology team.

Delivering customised solutions to commercial markets

The customised developments are based on specific requirements for components, transducers, and assemblies. Typical applications may include, diver detection arrays, towed array systems for detecting oil and gas deposits, or piezoceramic plates for the manufacture of custom 1-3 composites used in both active and passive sonar systems. “There’s no one size fits all in this market segment and our customers, with whom we have long-standing relationships, rely on us and our in-house R&D capabilities to deliver solutions that match their specifications,” said Turnbull.