06 November 2012

Breakthrough sensor can measure changes in mass and temperature

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a thin film bulk acoustic wave resonator that allows simultaneous measurement of temperature and mass loading in a single device.

The resonator has been designed so that it has two resonances which react differently to mass and temperature changes.

"This has two consequences," explained Dr Luis Garcia-Gancedo, from the university's Department of Engineering. "First, we are able to eliminate the effects of temperature completely regardless of its non linearity. Secondly, we are able to measure mass and temperature with extremely high sensitivity at exactly the same location, which we haven't been able to do before."

With the assistance of Cambridge Enterprise, the researchers are looking at two primary applications for the resonators: biological systems and physical sensing. The resonators could be used, they believe, for applications such as detecting viruses in a healthcare setting, or contaminants in drinking water. Other potential applications include air quality or pressure monitoring.

The resonator is able to detect masses to the order of 10-15 grams, which is approximately the size of one virus. The size of the resonator (typically a few micrometres square) means they can easily be embedded in various devices.

"One of the problems with existing sensing technology is that if you're trying to measure two different physical properties, the sensors are often based on two different mechanisms," noted Dr Garcia-Gancedo.
"The integration of two different sensing mechanisms means that you often end up with a bulky item. But what we have developed uses exactly the same technology with exactly the same electronics, without any increase in size."

Cambridge Enterprise is currently seeking commercial partners to develop the technology further.

Author
Laura Hopperton

Supporting Information

Websites
http://www.cam.ac.uk/
http://www.enterprise.cam.ac.uk/

Companies
University of Cambridge

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