Quartz Crystal Microbalance

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quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) measures a mass variation per unit area by measuring the change in frequency of a quartz crystal resonator. The resonance is disturbed by the addition or removal of a small mass due to oxide growth/decay, or film deposition at the surface of the acoustic resonator.  A QCM can be used under vacuum, in gas phase and in liquid environments.  It is useful for monitoring the rate of deposition in thin film deposition systems under vacuum.  In liquids, it is highly effective at determining the affinity of molecules to surfaces functionalised with recognition sites. Frequency measurements are made to high precision; hence it is easy to measure mass densities down to a level of below 1 μg/cm2.

ICAM equipment includes:

  • Biolin Scientific QSense E1 System at Imperial College London for detection of adhesion or nucleation (via mass change) at nanogram resolution.  Flow and window cell provides parallel imaging of the sensor surface and is suitable for measurements in liquid medium.
  • Biolin Scientific QSense Explorer system at the University of Cambridge. An electrochemical quartz microbalance with Low Current Potentiostat.  Capable of characterising changes in mechanical properties and mass of thin film materials during electrochemical cycling, chemical reactions or phase changes.