A versatile mass-sensing platform with tunable nonlinear self-excited microcantilevers

Joao Mouro, Bruno Tiribilli, Paolo Paoletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
348 Downloads (Pure)


A versatile mass-sensing platform based on the nonlinear dynamical response of a microcantilever embedded in a self-excitation feedback loop is proposed. It is experimentally shown that the delay imposed in the feedback loop by an adjustable phase-shifter can be used to finely tune this system to work in three different modalities, according to the desired mass sensing application: i) as a continuous mass sensor, where the oscillation frequency smoothly responds to changes in the mass added to the resonator; ii) as a threshold sensor, where a sudden change in the oscillation frequency is triggered by an arbitrarily small change of mass added to the cantilever; and iii) as a stable microresonator, whose oscillation frequency is almost not affected by environmental conditions, such as changes in added mass, or in density/ viscosity of the surrounding fluid. This variety of dynamical responses was registered for a wide range of added masses, in the form of beads individually attached to the cantilever. A complete analytical model to explain the observed experimental results is derived and shows a strong agreement with the measured data. The high resolution and signal-to-noise ratio, as well as the threshold and stable sensing modalities obtained with this closed-loop technique, are not available in the current open-loop microcantilever-based mass sensors.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology
Early online date27 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2018


  • Delays
  • Feedback loop
  • Frequency measurement
  • Mass-sensing
  • Microcavities
  • nonlinear oscillations
  • Oscillators
  • Piezoelectric polarization
  • Resonant frequency
  • self-excited microcantilever


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