Predicting the effective response of bulk polycrystalline ferroelectric ceramics via improved spectral phase field methods
Understanding the electromechanical response of bulk polycrystalline ferroelectric ceramics requires scale-bridging approaches. Recent advances in fast numerical methods to compute the homogenized mechanical response of materials with heterogeneous microstructure have enabled the solution of hitherto intractable systems. In particular, the use of a Fourier-based spectral method as opposed to the traditional finite element method has gained significant interest in the homogenization of periodic microstructures. Here, we solve the periodic, electro-mechanically-coupled boundary value problem at the mesoscale of polycrystalline ferroelectrics in order to extract the effective response of barium titanate (BaTiO3) and lead zirconate titanate (PZT) under applied electric fields. Results include the effective electric hysteresis and the associated butterfly curve of strain vs. electric field for mean stress-free electric loading. Computational predictions of the 3D polycrystalline response show convincing agreement with our experimental electric cycling and strain hysteresis data for PZT-5A. In addition to microstructure-dependent effective physics, we also show how finite-difference-based approximations in the spectral solution scheme significantly reduce instability and ringing phenomena associated with spectral techniques and lead to spatial convergence with h-refinement, which have been major challenges when modeling high-contrast systems such as polycrystals.