The evaluation of the piezoelectric properties of ferroelectric ceramics generally has a high level of uncertainty, due to incomplete poling, porosity, domain wall clamping and other effects. In addition, the poling process is often difficult and dangerous, due to the risk of breaking or damaging the sample. A method is described for the evaluation of the potential intrinsic piezoelectric response that a ceramic would have after full poling, without poling it. The method relies on the fact that any material undergoes an elastic softening below the ferroelectric transition temperature, whose magnitude can be expressed in terms of the intrinsic piezoelectric and dielectric coefficients of the material. Such a softening is equivalent to an electromechanical coupling factor averaged over all the components, due to the unpoled state of the sample, and can be deduced from a single temperature scan of an elastic modulus of a ceramic sample, spanning the ferroelectric and paraelectric states. The strengths, limits and possible applications of the method are discussed.
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