Bouncing to higher sensitivity

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Science  06 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6286, pp. 669-670
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6286.669-g

Sensors capable of measuring tiny forces have applications in many fields of science and engineering. Such sensors typically exploit the change in the mechanical properties of materials in response to an applied force. Nanofabrication techniques can be used to make extremely sensitive membrane structures, the displacement and vibration of which can be used to sense forces; the highest sensitivity usually requires cooling the structures to cryogenic temperatures. Norte et al. and Reinhardt et al. now show that the mechanical properties of such membranes can be optimized to sense forces of just several tens of attonewtons (10−18 N) at ambient conditions. Their simplified trampoline-like structures, with the membranes suspended at just several connection points, opens up the devices to situations of real-life application.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 147202 (2016); Phys. Rev. X 6, 021001 (2016).

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