Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Paul Ruffin, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Raymond R. Hagglund, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John M. Sullivan, Jr., Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Cosme Furlong, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Ryszard J. Pryputniewicz, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Gretar Tryggvason, Department Head




This Thesis relates to the continually advancing field of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). With MEMS technology, there are many different areas of concentration available for research. This Thesis addresses analysis and preliminary characterization of a cantilever-type MEMS chemical sensor for detection of chemicals and organic components operating at room temperature (20˚C and sea level pressure of 1 atm). Such sensors can be useful in a wide variety of applications. There currently exist several different types of MEMS chemical sensors. Each is based on a different detection method, e.g., capacitive, thermal, resistive, etc., and is used for specific tasks. Out of all currently available detection methods, the most common is the gravimetric method. The gravimetric sensor works by absorbing the chemical in a special material, usually a polymer, which alters the overall mass of the sensing element that can then be measured, or detected, to identify the chemical absorbed. One of the more exciting developments in the field of gravimetric chemical MEMS has been with the advancement of cantilever-type sensors. These cantilevers are small and usually on the order of only about 300 m in length. In order to utilize the gravimetric method, a cantilever is coated with a polymer that allows an analyte to bond to it and change its mass, which in turn changes the resonant frequency of the cantilever. The change in frequency can then be measured and analyzed and from it, the amount of absorbed mass can be calculated. Current research in the cantilever-type resonating sensors for the detection of hydrogen is developing measurement capabilities of 1 ppm (part-per-million). In this Thesis number of sample cantilevers were qualitatively assessed and their dimensional geometry measured. Based on these measurements, frequency data were obtained. In addition, the overall uncertainty in the resonant frequency results was calculated and the contributing factors to this uncertainty were investigated. Experimental methods that include laser vibrometry, optoelectronic laser interferometric microscopy (OELIM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM), were utilized to measure the frequency responses of the samples. The analytically predicted natural frequencies were compared to the experimental data to determine correlation subject to the uncertainty analysis. Parametric analyses involving chemical absorption processes were also conducted. Such analyses considered different parameters, e.g., damping and stiffness as well as changes in their values, to determine contributions they make to the quality of the frequency data and the effect they have on sensitivity of the MEMS cantilever-type chemical sensors. Once these parametric analyses were completed, it was possible to estimate the sensitivity of the cantilever, or the ability for the cantilever to detect frequency shifts due to absorption of the target chemical. Results of the parametric analyses of the fundamental resonant frequency were then correlated with the sensitivity results based on the chemical absorption. This Thesis correlates many results and ideas and probes problems revolving around the analysis and characterization of a MEMS cantilever-type chemical sensor.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





frequency, sensor, vibration, vibrometry, detection, resonance, chemical, cantilever, micromechanical, MEMS, polymer, absorption, AFM, SEM, holography, optoelectronic, silicon, hydrogen, palladium, Microelectromechanical systems, Chemical detectors