CORDIS - EU research results

MOde-localized mass Sensors with Thermal Actuation and Piezoresistive DEtection

Project description

High-performance, tiny-mass sensors to measure particulate matter

Resonant mass sensors based on nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) have attracted a great deal of attention over the past two decades, most notably for their ability to weigh single molecules and nanoparticles, or even monitor the growth of living cells. Their performance is significantly compromised when they are exposed to ambient air – weight measurement can take a considerable amount of time. Funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the MOSTAPDE project will address this challenge by combining thermal actuation and piezoresistive detection for NEMS-based resonators. This approach can significantly increase the quality factor at ambient conditions. The project plans to demonstrate how mass sensing can be applied to the measurement of particulate matter, which poses a significant threat to the environment.


Micro/nano-electromechanical system (M/NEMS) resonant mass sensors have attracted utmost interest over the past two decades. This is due to their wide range of applications, especially in biochemistry, for instance weighing single molecules, nanoparticles, and even monitoring the growth of living cells. However, their performance is significantly decreased when operated at ambient air and measurements take a considerable time. Therefore, there are two main challenges for MEMS resonant mass sensors: (i) the improvement of the quality factor at ambient atmospheric pressure; (ii) the realization of real-time monitoring with a closed-loop control and interface circuit system. Additionally, higher sensitivity is always a desirable property to further increase the performance of mass sensors.
In this project, entitled “MOde-localized mass Sensors with Thermal Actuation and Piezoresistive DEtection (MOSTAPDE)”, I aim addressing aforementioned challenges by combing thermal actuation and piezoresistive detection for MEMS resonators. With this approach a quality factor of several thousand at ambient pressure can be achieved. As a further novel approach, it is proposed to weakly couple two resonators and exploit the phenomenon of mode localization; by using the amplitude ratio as readout metric compared to the commonly used frequency modulation method; in this way the sensitivity can be enhanced by 2-3 orders of magnitude. Furthermore, the inherent common mode rejection property of mode-localized sensors can be exploited for higher robustness. Finally, particle contamination and blockage are avoided as the proposed sensors do not require small electrode-gaps as conventional capacitive sensors. For the microfabricated sensors, a closed-loop control circuit will be constructed to enable real time monitoring. We plan to demonstrate the concepts for measuring particulate matter, which is a major air pollutant, as a practical application of mass sensing.


Net EU contribution
€ 178 320,00
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 178 320,00