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Improving mechanical sensor performance through larger damping

Mechanical resonances are used in a wide variety of devices, from smartphone accelerometers to computer clocks and from wireless filters to atomic force microscopes. Frequency stability, a critical performance metric, is generally assumed to be tantamount to resonance quality factor (the inverse of the linewidth and of the damping). We show that the frequency stability of resonant nanomechanical sensors can be improved by lowering the quality factor. At high bandwidths, quality-factor reduction is completely mitigated by increases in signal-to-noise ratio. At low bandwidths, notably, increased damping leads to better stability and sensor resolution, with improvement proportional to damping. We confirm the findings by demonstrating temperature resolution of 60 microkelvin at 300-hertz bandwidth. These results open the door to high-performance ultrasensitive resonators in gaseous or liquid environments, single-cell nanocalorimetry, nanoscale gas chromatography, atmospheric-pressure nanoscale mass spectrometry, and new approaches in crystal oscillator stability.

Authors:   Swapan K. Roy; Vincent T. K. Sauer; Jocelyn N. Westwood-Bachman; Anandram Venkatasubramanian; Wayne K. Hiebert
Journal:   Science
Volume:   360
edition:   6394
Year:   2018
Pages:   eaar5220
DOI:   10.1126/science.aar5220
Publication date:   15-Jun-2018
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