Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) demonstrates label-free biosensing capabilities and is considered to be a promising alternative of quartz crystal microbalance (QCM). FBARs achieve great success in vacuum, or in the air, but find limited applications in liquid media because squeeze damping significantly degrades quality factor (Q) and results in poor frequency resolution. A transmission-line model shows that by confining the liquid in a thickness comparable to the acoustic wavelength of the resonator, Q can be considerably improved. The devices exhibit damped oscillatory patterns of Q as the liquid thickness varies. Q assumes its maxima and minima when the channel thickness is an odd and even multiple of the quarter-wavelength of the resonance, respectively. Microfluidic channels are integrated with longitudinal-mode FBARs (L-FBARs) to realize this design; a tenfold improvement of Q over fully-immersed devices is experimentally verified. Microfluidic integrated FBAR sensors have been demonstrated for detecting protein binding in liquid and monitoring the Vroman effect (the competitive protein adsorption behavior), showing their potential as a promising bio-analytical tool. A contour-mode FBAR (C-FBAR) is developed to further improve Q and to alleviate the need for complex integration of microfluidic channels. The C-FBAR consists of a suspended piezoelectric ring made of aluminum nitride and is excited in the fundamental radial-extensional mode. By replacing the squeeze damping with shear damping, high Qs (189 in water and 77 in human whole blood) are obtained in semi-infinite depth liquids. The C-FBAR sensors are characterized by aptamer - thrombin binding pairs and aqueous glycerine solutions for mass and viscosity sensing schemes, respectively. The C-FBAR sensor demonstrates accurate viscosity measurement from 1 to 10 centipoise, and can be deployed to monitor in-vitro blood coagulation processes in real time. Results show that its resonant frequency decreases as the viscosity of the blood increases during the fibrin generation process after the coagulation cascade. The coagulation time and the start/end of the fibrin generation are quantitatively determined, showing the C-FBAR can be a low-cost, portable yet reliable tool for hemostasis diagnostics.
- Film bulk acoustic resonators of high quality factors in liquid environments for biosensing applications