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Microcantilevers, such as those used in atomic force microscopy, undergo Brownian motion due to mechanical thermal noise. The root mean square amplitude of the Brownian motion of a cantilever typically ranges from 0.01–0.1 nm, which limits its use in practical applications. Here we describe a technique by which the Brownian amplitude and the Q factor in air and water can be amplified by three and two orders of magnitude, respectively. This technique is similar to a positive feedback oscillator, wherein the Brownian motion of the vibrating cantilever controls the frequency output of the oscillator. This technique can be exploited to improve sensitivity of microcantilever-based chemical and biological sensors, especially for sensors in liquid environments. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.
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