Illustration of Pyroelectricity

1756 Pyroelectricity

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Franz Ulrich Theodor Aepinus electromagnetism Illustration of Pyroelectricity


Scientists documented hints of pyroelectricity for centuries. Theophrastus found that tourmaline attracted sawdust and bits of straw. Johann Georg Schmidt found it attracted ashes but only when they were hot. Louis Lemery noted that items attracted were repelled after contact. Then Franz Aepinus proved that these attractions and repulsions were related to electricity.

Infrared detection

Because heat causes a voltage across opposite faces of a pyroelectric crystal it is used for thermal detectors and infrared imaging.

Energy harvesting

Waste heat with a cold thermal reservoir and an oscillating working fluid can use the Olsen cycle with a pyroelectric material to generate a small amount of electricity.


Wasted time, wasted love, every sparrow that falls is precious as is a contemplative moment, a walk in the woods, a lesson learned.

The electrocaloric effect is the physical inverse of the pyroelectric effect, which is when a material gains a temperature change in an external electric field.

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