Photostriction is best defined as the generation of strain in a material via light irradiation. In essence the photostrictive effect is a result of the combination of the photovoltaic and converse-piezoelectric effects. When light comes into contact with the surface of a photostrictive material, the photovoltaic effect causes the generation of a large amount of voltage. The converse-piezoelectric effect in turn converts the produced voltage into mechanical motion, which induces strain in the material. Photostrictive ceramics are considered excellent materials for use in advanced actuation technologies. This is due to their ability to be activated through irradiation of light, which provides advantages over conventional actuators, which include remote control capability, freedom from physical actuation, and reduced electromagnetic (EM) interference. Conversely conventional actuators require hard wired connections to transmit control signals that can produce EM interference, creating signal noise. Photostrictive ceramics have also found use in the manufacturing of micro electromechanical systems, also known as MEMS technology, mostly due to their wireless capabilities.

Photostrictive materials are ferroelectric ceramics that exhibit the photostrictive effect. PLZT, (Pb, La)(Zr, Ti) O3 ceramics doped with WO3, exhibit large photostriction deflection under uniform illumination of light, and have potential uses in numerous micro-electro-mechanical systems as a result of this property. The objective of this research is to numerically investigate the effect of light intensity on transverse deflection of an overhanging beam model, and to assess the effect actuator size has on deflection for a propped cantilever beam model using finite element analysis technique. The current research results is then compared with the validated results of other studies on PLZT using other model types.

From this numerical investigation it has been observed that for an overhanging beam model, the transverse deflection of PLZT actuators has a direct relationship to the intensity of the light applied in order to induce photostriction. It has also been observed that this relationship applies over a large range of light intensity upwards of 4000 mW/cm2, boosting maximum deflection into the micron range (1E−6 – 1E−7 m). With regard to the propped cantilever beam model, it has been observed that incomplete PLZT coverage of the cantilever beam portion of the model caused upwards transverse deflection. However, as the amount of PLZT actuator was increased, the deflection behavior exponentially approached negative values. By comparing these results with similar studies on alternate model types, it was confirmed that for beams deposited with PLZT actuator, light intensity and actuator size and surface coverage will affect the transverse deflection of the beam in the same manner regardless of the beam model.

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