ErnestoCamarenaDissertation.pdf (27.35 MB)

Multiscale Continuum Modeling of Piezoelectric Smart Structures

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posted on 10.06.2019, 17:12 by Ernesto Camarena
Among the many active materials in use today, piezoelectric composite patches have enabled notable advances in emerging technologies such as disturbance sensing, control of flexible structures, and energy harvesting. The macro fiber composite (MFC), in particular, is well known for its outstanding performance. Multiscale models are typically required for smart-structure design with MFCs. This is due to the need for predicting the macroscopic response (such as tip deflection under a transverse load or applied voltage) while accounting for the fact that the MFC has microscale details. Current multiscale models of the MFC exclusively focus on predicting the macroscopic response with homogenized material properties. There are a limited number of homogenized properties available from physical experiments and various aspects of existing homogenization techniques for the MFC are shown here to be inadequate. Thus, new homogenized models of the MFC are proposed to improve smart-structure predictions and therefore improve device design. It is notable that current multiscale modeling efforts for MFCs are incomplete since, after homogenization, the local fields such as stresses and electric fields have not been recovered. Existing methods for obtaining local fields are not applicable since the electrodes of the MFC are embedded among passive layers. Therefore, another objective of this work was to find the local fields of the MFC without having the computational burden of fully modeling the microscopic features of the MFC over a macroscale area. This should enable smart-structure designs with improved reliability because failure studies of MFCs will be enabled. Large-scale 3D finite element (FE) models that included microscale features were constructed throughout this work to verify the multiscale methodologies. Note that after creating a free account on, many files used to create the results in this work can be downloaded from

First, the Mechanics of Structure Genome (MSG) was extended to provide a rigorous analytical homogenization method. The MFC was idealized to consist of a stack of homogeneous layers where some of the layers were homogenized with existing rules of mixtures. For the analytical model, the electrical behavior caused by the interdigitated electrodes (IDEs) was approximated with uniform poling and uniform electrodes. All other assumptions on the field variables were avoided; thus an exact solution for a stack of homogeneous layers was found with MSG. In doing so, it was proved that in any such multi-layered composite, the in-plane strains and the transverse stresses are equal in each layer and the in-plane electric fields and transverse electric displacement are constant between the electrodes. Using this knowledge, a hybrid rule of mixtures was developed to homogenize the entire MFC layup so as to obtain the complete set of effective device properties. Since various assumptions were avoided and since the property set is now complete, it is expected that greater energy equivalence between reality and the homogenized model has been made possible. The derivation clarified what the electrical behavior of a homogenized solid with internal electrodes should be—an issue that has not been well understood. The behavior was verified by large-scale FE models of an isolated MFC patch.

Increased geometrical fidelity for homogenization was achieved with an FE-based RVE analysis that accounted for finite-thickness effects. The presented theory also rectifies numerous issues in the literature with the use of the periodic boundary conditions. The procedure was first developed without regard to the internal electrodes (ie a homogenization of the active layer). At this level, the boundary conditions were shown to satisfy a piezoelectric macrohomogeneity condition. The methodology was then applied to the full MFC layup, and modifications were implemented so that both types of MFC electrodes would be accounted for. The IDE case considered nonuniform poling and electric fields, but fully poled material was assumed. The inherent challenges associated with these nonuniformities are explored, and a solution is proposed. Based on the homogenization boundary conditions, a dehomogenization procedure was proposed that enables the recovery of local fields. The RVE analysis results for the effective properties revealed that the homogenization procedure yields an unsymmetric constitutive relation; which suggests that the MFC cannot be homogenized as rigorously as expected. Nonetheless, the obtained properties were verified to yield favorable results when compared to a large-scale 3D FE model.

As a final test of the obtained effective properties, large-scale 3D FE models of MFCs acting in a static unimorph configuration were considered. The most critical case to test was the smallest MFC available. Since none of the homogenized models account for the passive MFC regions that surround the piezoelectric fiber array, some of the test models were constructed with and without the passive regions. Studying the deflection of the host substrate revealed that ignoring the passive area in smaller MFCs can overpredict the response by up to 20%. Satisfactory agreement between the homogenized models and a direct numerical simulation were obtained with a larger MFC (about a 5% difference for the tip deflection). Furthermore, the uniform polarization assumption (in the analytical model) for the IDE case was found to be inadequate. Lastly, the recovery of the local fields was found to need improvement.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Wenbin Yu

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. Andres Arrieta Diaz

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Tyler N. Tallman

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. William A. Crossley