Anharmonic interaction signals for acoustic detection of analyte

The challenges with frequency-based acoustic detection systems in sensitive, selective, and reliable quantitative estimation of surface-bound analyte are well-known. These systems are traditionally used in their linear incarnations; i.e., the measurement frequency is the same as the driving frequency. However, it was found in this work that interactions of adsorbents with sensor surface show significant anharmonicity even at low drive amplitudes. In particular, using streptavidin-coated polystyrene microbeads on an oscillating quartz surface in air, it has been demonstrated through modeling and experiments that the anharmonic signal from microparticle to surface interaction is significantly higher relative to that from bare quartz and orders of magnitude higher than relative shifts in resonant frequency. The signal is proportional to the number of microparticles and holds a well-defined functional relationship with the amplitude of oscillation, distinct to the nature of interaction with the surface for a given analyte. This approach, thus, can be used for ultrasensitive and quantitative detection of surface adsorbents and characterization of different kinds of surface interactions, distinguishing specific from nonspecific adsorbents. The modeling also reveals a direct functional relationship between the measured anharmonic signal and the interaction potential of the adsorbent with the surface. © 2010 American Chemical Society.