Since piezoelectric effect was discovered in 1880, it has been widely used in micro-actuators, sensors, and energy harvesters. Lead Zirconate Titanate (PZT) is a commonly used piezoelectric material due to the high piezoelectric response. The basic PZT film fabrication process includes deposition, sintering, and poling. However, due to the high sintering temperature (> 800 °C) of PZT, only high melting point material can be served as the substrate. Otherwise, complex film transfer approach is needed to achieve flexible and foldable PZT devices. The exploration is accordingly necessary to realize direct fabrication of PZT films on low melting point substrates without affecting the piezoelectric performance. In order to lower the PZT film sintering temperature, in this work, the effect of the powder size and sintering aid on the sintering temperature was studied. A maskless, CAD driven, non-contact direct printing system, aerosol jet printer, was used to deposit PZT thick films on the substrate. This technique allows creating features without masking and etching processes that are generally required for realizing designed features via conventional deposition approaches. Broadband, sub-millisecond, high intensity flash pulses were used to sinter the PZT films. The role of all sintering parameters was investigated to regulate the sintering quality of the PZT thick films. The photonically sintered films showed much lower substrate temperature increase mainly due to the extremely short pulse duration and temperature gradient through the film thickness. The superior piezoelectric property to thermally sintered group was also obtained. This process significantly shortens the processing duration and dramatically expands the possible substrate materials. It accordingly opens the possibility of processing PZT film directly on low melting point materials. A PZT energy harvester based on this process was directly fabricated on the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate to demonstrate the capability. The relation between the load and the generated power was investigated to obtain the highest output power. Up to 0.1 μW was generated from this flexible energy harvester when connected with 10 MΩ resistive load. Photonic sintering of PZT film also creates the opportunity of processing poling during sintering. Different combinations of the sintering and poling techniques were studied. It was observed that the best piezoelectric property was obtained while performing poling during photonic sintering. Consequently, a new method of printing, sintering, and poling of micro-scaled PZT films was demonstrated in this work resulting in high performance films. This process provides the capability of realizing PZT devices on low temperature substrate, facilitates the fabrication of flexible piezoelectric devices, and enhances the piezoelectric property.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Piezoelectric materials; Sintering; Thick films

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)


David A. Borkholder

Advisor/Committee Member

Denis Cormier

Advisor/Committee Member

Scott Williams


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes