Piezo multilayer ceramics are increasingly used under extreme condition such as high pressures in engine injection systems. The mechanical stability and reliability of the ceramic multilayer is of major importance for proper operation. Critical functional defects are caused by material fracture and flaw extension in the device. The flaw propagation in PZT-multilayer ceramics under mechanical load was examined using impedance spectroscopy and three-point-bending studies. Initial flaws were generated by applying a sinus ac-field on the specimens. The cracks were successively promoted and after the release of the external mechanical load the impedance spectroscopy was conducted. As a measure for flaw extension, the shift in the resonance frequencies and the sub-resonance height of the impedance spectroscopy was used. A functional dependence of the resonance frequency and the phase shift on the crack length was found.
The crack propagation was studied on flaws starting at the positive and negative electrode, respectively. The maximum fracture strength as well as the crack path depends on the electrode potentials. The variation in the fracture strength was caused by the different observed fracture mode: interface cracking, matrix-cracking and a combination of both. The morphology of the fracture faces was ascribed to an anisotropic behaviour, which is created by the sample processing, e.g. the poling process. A modified poling procedure with a lower poling temperature was analysed, which yielded a reduction of the anisotropy of the electrode strength. Impedance spectroscopy was found as a reliable measurement tool for automated flaw detection in PZT-multilayer ceramics.