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Enzyme Technology

Piezo-electric biosensors

Piezo-electric crystals (e.g. quartz) vibrate under the influence of an electric field. The frequency of this oscillation (f) depends on their thickness and cut, each crystal having a characteristic resonant frequency. This resonant frequency changes as molecules adsorb or desorb from the surface of the crystal, obeying the relationshipes

deltaf = Kf^2 Deltam/A            (6.7)

where Df is the change in resonant frequency (Hz), Dm is the change in mass of adsorbed material (g), K is a constant for the particular crystal dependent on such factors as its density and cut, and A is the adsorbing surface area (cm2). For any piezo-electric crystal, the change in frequency is proportional to the mass of absorbed material, up to about a 2% change. This frequency change is easily detected by relatively unsophisticated electronic circuits. A simple use of such a transducer is a formaldehyde biosensor, utilising a formaldehyde dehydrogenase coating immobilised to a quartz crystal and sensitive to gaseous formaldehyde. The major drawback of these devices is the interference from atmospheric humidity and the difficulty in using them for the determination of material in solution. They are, however, inexpensive, small and robust, and capable of giving a rapid response.


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This page was established in 2004 and last updated by Martin Chaplin
on 6 August, 2014