Turning polymer foams or polymer-film systems into ferroelectrets: Dielectric barrier discharges in voids

Xunlin Qiu, Reimund Gerhard, Axel Mellinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Polymer foams and void-containing polymer-film systems with internally charged voids combine large piezoelectricity with mechanical flexibility and elastic compliance. This new class of soft materials (often called ferro-or piezoelectrets) has attracted considerable attention from science and industry. It has been found that the voids can be internally charged by means of dielectric barrier discharges (DBDs) under high electric fields. The charged voids can be considered as man-made macroscopic dipoles. Depending on the ferroelectret structure and the pressure of the internal gas, the voids may be highly compressible. Consequently, very large dipole-moment changes can be induced by mechanical or electrical stresses, leading to large piezoelectricity. DBD charging of the voids is a critical process for rendering polymer foams piezoelectric. Thus a comprehensive exploration of DBD charging is essential for the understanding and the optimization of piezoelectricity in ferroelectrets. Recent studies show that DBDs in the voids are triggered when the internal electric field reaches a threshold value according to Townsend's model of Paschen breakdown. During the DBDs, charges of opposite polarity are generated and trapped at the top and bottom internal surfaces of the gas-filled voids, respectively. The deposited charges induce an electric field opposite to the externally applied one and thus extinguish the DBDs. Back discharges may eventually be triggered when the external voltage is reduced or turned off. In order to optimize the efficiency of DBD charging, the geometry (in particular the height) of the voids, the type of gas and its pressure inside the voids are essential factors to be considered and to be optimized. In addition, the influence of the plasma treatment on the internal void surfaces during the DBDs should be taken into consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5704490
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Ferroelectret
  • dielectric barrier discharge (DBD)
  • effective polarization
  • man-made dipole
  • piezoelectret


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