Sensors based on nanoelectromechanical systems vibrating at high and ultrahigh frequencies1 are capable of levels of performance that surpass those of larger sensors. Nanoelectromechanical devices have achieved unprecedented sensitivity in the detection of displacement2, mass3, force4 and charge5. To date, these milestones have been achieved with passive devices that require external periodic or impulsive stimuli to excite them into resonance. Here, we demonstrate an autonomous and self-sustaining nanoelectromechanical oscillator that generates continuous ultrahigh-frequency signals when powered by a steady d.c. source. The frequency-determining element in the oscillator is a 428 MHz nanoelectromechanical resonator that is embedded within a tunable electrical feedback network to generate active and stable self-oscillation. Our prototype nanoelectromechanical oscillator exhibits excellent frequency stability, linewidth narrowing and low phase noise performance. Such ultrahigh-frequency oscillators provide a comparatively simple means for implementing a wide variety of practical sensing applications. They also offer intriguing opportunities for nanomechanical frequency control, timing and synchronization.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Huang, X. M. H., Zorman, C. A., Mehregany, M. & Roukes, M. L. Nanodevice motion at microwave frequencies. Nature 421, 496 (2003).
LaHaye, M. D., Buu, O., Camarota, B. & Schwab, K. C. Approaching the quantum limit of a nanomechanical resonator. Science 304, 74–77 (2004).
Yang, Y. T., Callegari, C., Feng, X. L., Ekinci, K. L. & Roukes, M. L. Zeptogram-scale nanomechanical mass sensing. Nano Lett. 6, 583–586 (2006).
Rugar, D., Budakian, R., Mamin, H. J. & Chui, B. W. Single spin detection by magnetic resonance force microscopy. Nature 430, 329–332 (2004).
Cleland, A. N. & Roukes, M. L. A nanometre-scale mechanical electrometer. Nature 392, 160–162 (1998).
Audoin, C. & Guinot, B. The Measurement of Time: Time, Frequency, and the Atomic Clock (trans. Lyle, S.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 2001).
Hajimiri, A. & Lee, T. H. The Design of Low Noise Oscillators (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, 1999).
Ward, M. D. & Buttry, D. A. In situ interfacial mass detection with piezoelectric transducers. Science 249, 1000–1007 (1990).
Cady, W. G. The piezo-electric resonator. Proc. IRE 10, 83–114 (1922).
Nathanson, H. C., Newell, W. E., Wickstrom, R. A. & Davis, J. R. Jr. The resonant gate transistor. IEEE Trans. Electron. Dev. ED-14, 117–133 (1967).
Newell, W. E. Miniaturization of tuning forks. Science 161, 1320–1326 (1968).
Nguyen, C. T. C. & Howe, R. T. An integrated CMOS micromechanical resonator high-Q oscillator. IEEE J. Solid State Circ. 34, 440–455 (1999).
Lin, Y. W. et al. Series-resonant VHF micromechanical resonator reference oscillators. IEEE J. Solid State Circ. 39, 2477–2491 (2004).
Ham, D. & Hajimiri, A. Virtual damping and Einstein relation in oscillators. IEEE J. Solid State Circ. 38, 407–418 (2003).
Li, M., Tang, H. X. & Roukes, M. L. Ultra-sensitive NEMS-based cantilevers for sensing, scanned probe and very high-frequency applications. Nature Nanotech. 2, 114–120 (2007).
Burg, T. P. et al. Weighing of biomolecules, single cells and single nanoparticles in fluid. Nature 446, 1066–1069 (2007).
Ekinci, K. L., Yang, Y. T. & Roukes, M. L. Ultimate limits to inertial mass sensing based upon nanoelectromechanical systems. J. Appl. Phys. 95, 2682–2689 (2004).
Rodahl, M., Höök, F., Krozer, A., Brzezinski, P. & Kasemo, B. Quartz crystal microbalance setup for frequency and Q-factor measurements in gaseous and liquid environments. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 66, 3924–3930 (1995).
Arlett, J. L., Maloney, J. R., Gudlewski, B., Muluneh, M. & Roukes, M. L. Self-sensing micro- and nanocantilevers with attonewton-scale force resolution. Nano Lett. 6, 1000–1006 (2006).
Albrecht, T. R., Grütter, P., Horne, D. & Rugar, D. Frequency modulation detection using high-Q cantilevers for enhanced force microscope sensitivity. J. Appl. Phys. 69, 668–673 (1991).
Lee, T. H. & Hajimiri, A. Oscillator phase noise: a tutorial. IEEE J. Solid State Circ. 35, 326–336 (2000).
Leeson, D. B. A simple model of feedback oscillator noise spectrum. Proc. IEEE 54, 329–330 (1966).
Otis, B. P. & Rabaey, J. M. A 300 µW 1.9 GHz CMOS oscillator utilizing micromachined resonators. IEEE J. Solid State Circ. 38, 1271–1274 (2003).
Vig, J. R. & Kim, Y. Noise in microelectromechanical system resonators. IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Contr. 46, 1558–1565 (1999).
Cleland, A. N. & Roukes, M. L. Noise processes in nanomechanical resonators. J. Appl. Phys. 92, 2758–2769 (2002).
Schwab, K. C. & Roukes, M. L. Putting mechanics into quantum mechanics. Phys. Today 58, 36–42 (July 2005).
Nguyen, C. T. C., Katehi, L. P. B. & Rebeiz, G. M. Micromachined devices for wireless communications. Proc. IEEE 86, 1756–1768 (1998).
Cross, M. C., Zumdieck, A., Lifshitz, R. & Rogers, J. L. Synchronization by nonlinear frequency pulling. Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 224101 (2004).
Pikovsky, A., Rosenblum, M. & Kurths, J. Synchronization: A Universal Concept in Nonlinear Sciences (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001).
Varela, F., Lachaux, J. P., Rodriguez, E. & Martinerie, J. The brainweb: phase synchronization and large-scale integration. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 2, 229–239 (2001).
Huang, X. M. H., Feng, X. L., Zorman, C. A., Mehregany, M. & Roukes, M. L. VHF, UHF and microwave frequency nanomechanical resonators. New J. Phys. 7, 247 (2005).
Lin, Y. W., Li, S. S., Xie, Y., Ren, Z. & Nguyen, C. T. C. Vibrating micromechanical resonators with solid dielectric capacitive transducer gaps, in Proc. IEEE Int. Freq. Contr. Symp., August 29–31, 128–134 (IEEE, Vancouver, Canada, 2005).
Masmanidis, S. C. et al. Multifunctional nanomechanical systems via tunably coupled piezoelectric actuation. Science 317, 780–783 (2007).
Cleland, A. N. & Roukes, M. L. External control of dissipation in a nanometer-scale radiofrequency mechanical resonator. Sens. Actuators A 72, 256–261 (1999).
Postma, H. W. C., Kozinsky, I., Husain, A. & Roukes, M. L. Dynamic range of nanotube- and nanowire-based electromechanical systems. Appl. Phys. Lett. 86, 223105 (2005).
We thank C.T.C. Nguyen, J.R. Vig, M.C. Cross and R. Lifshitz for helpful discussions. We thank M. Mehregany and C.A. Zorman for providing SiC material. We acknowledge support from DARPA/SPAWAR under grant N66001-02-1-8914.
About this article
Cite this article
Feng, X., White, C., Hajimiri, A. et al. A self-sustaining ultrahigh-frequency nanoelectromechanical oscillator. Nature Nanotech 3, 342–346 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2008.125
Microsystems & Nanoengineering (2021)
Nature Communications (2021)
Nature Physics (2020)
Scientific Reports (2019)
Nature Communications (2019)