Using a fast, low-cost fabrication technique that allows inexpensive testing of a wide variety of materials, Cornell researchers have come up with nanoscale resonators — tiny vibrating strings — with the highest quality factor so far obtainable at room temperature for devices so small.
The work is another step toward “laboratory on a chip” applications in which vibrating strings can be used to detect and identify biological molecules. The devices also can be used as very precisely tuned oscillators in radio-frequency circuits, replacing relatively bulky quartz crystals.
When you strike a bell or pluck a guitar string, it will vibrate within a small range of frequencies, centering on what is called the resonant frequency. Quality factor, or Q, refers to how narrow that range will be. It is defined as the ratio of the resonant frequency to the range of frequencies over which resonance occurs. A radio receiver with high-Q circuitry, for example, will be more selective in separating one station from another.Cornell researchers have already used vibrating strings and cantilevers to detect masses as small as a single bacterium or virus. Resonant frequency depends on the mass of a vibrating object (a thick guitar string has a lower pitch than a thin one). If a nanoscale vibrator is coated with antibodies that cause a virus or some other molecule to adhere to it, the change in mass causes a measurable change in frequency. In a high Q nanostring, the researchers say, a small change in mass will produce a much more noticeable shift.
The new nanostrings, made by graduate student Scott Verbridge and colleagues in the laboratories of Harold Craighead, Cornell professor of applied and engineering physics, and Jeevak Parpia, professor of physics, are made of silicon nitride under stress. By controlling the temperature, pressure and other factors as the film is deposited, the experimenters can cause the silicon nitride to be, in effect, stretched.
Congratulations Scott his is a major break thru I can not wait to see a working prototype!