A new method for wideband characterization of resonator-based sensing platforms

Munir, Farasat; Wathen, Adam; Hunt, William D.
March 2011
Review of Scientific Instruments;Mar2011, Vol. 82 Issue 3, p035119
Academic Journal
A new approach to the electronic instrumentation for extracting data from resonator-based sensing devices (e.g., microelectromechanical, piezoelectric, electrochemical, and acoustic) is suggested and demonstrated here. Traditionally, oscillator-based circuitry is employed to monitor shift in the resonance frequency of the resonator. These circuits give a single point measurement at the frequency where the oscillation criterion is met. However, the resonator response itself is broadband and contains much more information than a single point measurement. Here, we present a method for the broadband characterization of a resonator using white noise as an excitation signal. The resonator is used in a two-port filter configuration, and the resonator output is subjected to frequency spectrum analysis. The result is a wideband spectral map analogous to the magnitude of the S21 parameters of a conventional filter. Compared to other sources for broadband excitation (e.g., frequency chirp, multisine, or narrow time domain pulse), the white noise source requires no design of the input signal and is readily available for very wide bandwidths (1 MHz-3 GHz). Moreover, it offers simplicity in circuit design as it does not require precise impedance matching; whereas such requirements are very strict for oscillator-based circuit systems, and can be difficult to fulfill. This results in a measurement system that does not require calibration, which is a significant advantage over oscillator circuits. Simulation results are first presented for verification of the proposed system, followed by measurement results with a prototype implementation. A 434 MHz surface acoustic wave (SAW) resonator and a 5 MHz quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) are measured using the proposed method, and the results are compared to measurements taken by a conventional bench-top network analyzer. Maximum relative differences in the measured resonance frequencies of the SAW and QCM resonators are 0.0004% and 0.002%, respectively. The ability to track a changing sensor response is demonstrated by inducing temperature variations and measuring resonance frequency simultaneously using the proposed technique in parallel with a network analyzer. The relative difference between the two measurements is about 5.53 ppm, highlighting the impressive accuracy of the proposed system. Using commercially available digital signal processors (DSPs), we believe that this technique can be implemented as a system-on-a-chip solution resulting in a very low cost, easy to use, portable, and customizable sensing system. In addition, given the simplicity of the signal and circuit design, and its immunity to other common interface concerns (injection locking, oscillator interference, and drift, etc.), this method is better suited to accommodating array-based systems.


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