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Progresses in Chemical Sensor

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Advancements in microelectromechanical system (MEMS) technology over the last several decades has been a driving force behind miniaturizing and improving sensor designs. In this work, a specialized cantilever pressure sensor was designed, modeled, and fabricated to investigate the photoacoustic (PA) response of gases to terahertz (THz) radiation under low-vacuum conditions associated with high-resolution spectroscopy. Microfabricated cantilever devices made using silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers were tested in a custom-built test chamber in this first ever demonstration of a cantilever-based PA chemical sensor and spectroscopy system in the THz frequency regime. The THz radiation source was amplitude modulated to excite acoustic waves in the chamber, and PA molecular spectroscopy of a gas species was performed. An optical measurement technique was used to evaluate the PA effect on the cantilever sensor; a laser beam was reflected off the cantilever tip and through an iris to a photodiode. As the cantilever movement deflected the laser beam, the beam was clipped by an iris and generated the PA signal. Experimental data indicated a predominantly linear response in signal amplitude from the photodiode measurement technique, which directly correlated to measured cantilever deflections. Using the custom-designed PA chamber and MEMS cantilever sensor, excellent low-pressure PA spectral data of methyl cyanide (CH3CN) at 2 to 40 mTorr range has been obtained. At low chamber pressures, the sensitivity of our system was 1.97 × 10−5 cm−1 and had an excellent normalized noise equivalent absorption (NNEA) coefficient of 1.39 × 10−9 cm−1 W Hz-½ using a 0.5 s signal averaging time.


Published version. "MEMS-Based Terahertz Photoacoustic Chemical Sensing System," in Progresses in Chemical Sensor edited by Wen Wang. Rijeka,Croatia : Intech, 2016. (11-36). DOI. © 2016 The Author(s). Licensee InTech. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Ronald A. Coutu was affiliated with the Air Force Institute of Technology at the time of publication.

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