Porous and composite piezoelectric ceramics are of interest for underwater ultrasonic transducers due to their improved voltage sensitivity and acoustic matching with water, compared with their dense counterparts. Commonly, these materials are fabricated by dice-and-fill of sintered blocks of polycrystalline piezoceramic, which results in a high volume of waste. The freeze-casting technique offers a low waste and scalable alternative to the dice-and-fill method to produce porous piezoceramics with highly orientated, anisometric pores. In this article, we have fabricated underwater ultrasonic transducers from freeze-cast lead zirconate titanate (PZT) with a range of porosities. The porous PZT samples were characterized in terms of their piezoelectric and dielectric properties before being encapsulated for acoustic performance testing in water. Off resonance, the on-axis receive sensitivity of the manufactured devices was approximately-200 ± 10 dB re 1 V μ Pa; the transmit voltage response (TVR) was in the range of approximately 115 ± 5 dB re 1 μ Pa/V at 60 kHz to 132.5 ± 2.5 dB re 1 μ Pa/{V} at 180 kHz. The most porous transducer devices (0.51, 0.43, and 0.33 pore fraction) exhibited primarily a thickness mode resonance, whereas the least porous transducers (0.29 pore fraction and dense benchmark) exhibited an undesired radial mode, which was observed as an additional resonant peak in the electrical impedance measurements and lateral off-axis lobes in the acoustic beampatterns. Our results show that the acoustic sensitivities and TVRs of the porous freeze-cast transducers are comparable to those of a dense pressed transducer. However, the freeze-cast transducers with porosity exceeding 0.30 pore fraction were shown to achieve an effective structure with aligned porosity that suppressed undesired radial mode resonances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1100-1111
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


  • Freeze-casting
  • ice templating
  • piezocomposite
  • underwater transducer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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