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W. G. Cady: The Father of Modern Piezoelectricity


Who was Walter Guyton Cady?


American physicist and electrical engineer Dr. Walter Guyton Cady (1874–1974) was, during his lifetime, described as the “Father of Modern Piezoelectricity”.

Cady became a professor of physics at Wesleyan University (Connecticut) in 1902, but his work with piezoelectricity did not begin until 1917. Cady’s interest in submarine detection – a huge concern during World War I – led to his invitation to a conference on antisubmarine measures, arranged by the U.S. Navy and National Research Council.

At this time piezoelectricity, which had been discovered in 1880, was still a specialized academic subject and was studied primarily in France and Germany. At the conference, however, Cady learnt from the French delegates about attempts by Paul Langevin to detect submarines via a piezoelectric method. (For more about Langevin’s ultrasonic submarine detector, check out our History of the Piezoelectric Effect!) Cady himself had decided that the most promising method to detect submarines would be to receive an echo from a narrow beam of underwater ultrasonic waves. To achieve this, he had considered trying magnetostriction. After the conference, however, he immediately abandoned this notion and instead began reading up about piezoelectricity.

An Important Discovery

Until the armistice in November 1918, Cady worked with groups at the General Electric Research Laboratory and at Columbia University on underwater receiving devices. While European teams stuck to quartz, Cady (and other Americans) turned to the more sensitive Rochelle salt. Cady successfully developed a Rochelle salt microphone capable of detecting underwater sound signals from as far away as 3 miles.

Japanese Rochelle Salt Microphone

Around this time Cady noticed the reaction of a vibrating piezoelectric crystal upon the driving circuit. This discovery would lead to his most significant achievements.

Piezoelectric Resonators and Oscillators

In February 1921, at a meeting of the American Physical Society, Cady described a piezoelectric resonator. Later the same year, at another meeting of the APS, he described a piezoelectric oscillator.

The piezoelectric oscillator was Cady’s most important contribution to science and engineering. Crystal oscillators are now used in everything from quartz wrist watches to quartz clocks in the microchips of computers, tablets and smartphones.


Over the next 20 years Cady focused on the piezoelectric oscillator and the piezoelectric resonator. He also undertook fundamental piezoelectric studies with a special emphasis on Rochelle salt. His initial plan in the early 1930s for a short monograph on piezoelectricity eventually became the enormous Piezoelectricity, whose publication was delayed by World War II until 1946. A revised edition of this important work was published in 1964.


Retirement, Death and the W. G. Cady Award

Cady officially retired in 1951, but he remained active in his field, even developing a piezoelectric ceramic accelerometer in his 90s and obtaining a patent for it in 1973.
Cady died in 1974, one day before his 100th birthday. Since 1983 the Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control Society of the IEEE has annually awarded the W. G. Cady Award, named in his memory, to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of piezoelectric frequency control devices.

What is Piezoelectricity?

Certain materials tend to accumulate electric charges when a mechanical stress is applied to them.

The piezoelectric effect is an effect that describes the fact that a pressure applied to a piezoelectric material will…

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How to simulate Piezoelectricity?

Piezoelectric devices can be simulated in 1D, 2D or 3D using the Finite Element Method and the appropriate multiphysic solvers. Research have demonstrated that the best method to obtain accurate solution of such system is to use Time Response Dynamic Analysis FEA Simulation and Nonlinear Explicit/Implicit Coupled Algorithms. OnScale is the only software on the market truly efficient to perform this kind of advanced analysis.

Finite Element Method is the best way to simulate transducers
The finite element method reduces the electromechanical partial differential equations (PDEs) over the model domain to a system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) in time that can be solved.
What is the system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) which is solved?
The electromechanical finite element equations are derived from the piezoelectricity constitutive relations and the equations of mechanical and electrical equilibrium
Frequency domain or Time domain?
Frequency Domain poses the assumption of harmonic behavior, whereas Time-domain solutions assume general temporal evolution of the system, requiring step-by-step integration of the equations.
Implicit or an Explicit integration Scheme?
OnScale uses a mixed explicit/implicit algorithm which performs a direct time integration of the 2D or 3D electromechanical equations. This special method increases the speed at which such 2D or 3D piezoelectric can be calculated while maintaining a very good level of results accuracy.

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Useful Video Tutorials and Webinars

In this section, you will find the best tutorials and webinars to help you to start to simulate right away piezoelectric systems with OnScale:

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