A novel langasite crystal microbalance instrumentation for UV sensing application

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In this paper, we present a novel low-power UV sensor instrumentation based on ZnO thin-film and langasite crystal microbalance (LCM) composite resonator. The design of this sensor utilizes the exceptional transient response characteristics of thickness shear mode langasite crystal and UV sensitivity of annealed ZnO thin film. Our comparative transient analysis of langasite and quartz crystals shows that langasite crystal has high stability and fast relaxation times, and requires a fraction of excitation power in comparison to that of quartz. Upon investigating the equivalent circuit components, we discovered that high value of motional capacitance of LCM resulted in these contrasting transient responses in LCM and QCM. This high motional capacitance can be further attributed to the high electromechanical coupling coefficient (K2) of piezoelectric langasite crystal. Motivated by these observed characteristics, we proposed a novel sensor instrumentation that is simple yet effective in simultaneous measurements of the frequency, dissipation factor, and the amplitude of oscillation of a LCM. Moreover, our measurements allow for direct monitoring of any change in piezoelectricity of ZnO thin film. Our new measurement approach uses a one-shot pulse instead of conventional sinusoidal waveform to drive the crystal, which allows for simple instrumentation and requires very low input power. The transient response of the crystal shows that the crystal oscillates at its fundamental frequency and the amplitude of oscillation decays exponentially. From the recorded decay curve, the frequency of the freely oscillating crystal, and other important crystal parameters were calculated. We have utilized this mechanism to demonstrate highly sensitive ZnO thin film and LCM based UV sensor. Highest sensitivity of 35.8 ppm per μW/cm2 was observed for the LCM coated with 400 nm ZnO film. Additionally, the influence of UV on the piezoelectric output of ZnO thin film was also characterized by monitoring the DC offset of the output oscillations. Our findings in this work opens scope for developing low-power acoustic sensors with significant implications towards self-powering sensors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalSensors and Actuators, A: Physical
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Electrical equivalent circuit
  • Langasite crystal microbalance
  • Sensor instrumentation
  • Transient response
  • UV sensing
  • ZnO thin film

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