Studying adsorbent dynamics on a quartz crystal resonator using its nonlinear electrical response

The quartz crystal resonator has been traditionally employed in studying surface-confined physisorbed films and particles by measuring dissipation and frequency shifts. However, theoretical interpretation of the experimental observations is often challenged due to limited understanding of physical interaction mechanisms at the interfaces involved. Here we model a physisorbed interaction between particles and gold electrode surface of a quartz crystal and demonstrate how the nonlinear modulation of the electric response of the crystal due to the nonlinear interaction forces may be used to study the dynamics of the particles. In particular, we show that the graphs of the deviation in the third Fourier harmonic response versus oscillation amplitude provide important information about the onset, progress and nature of sliding of the particles. The graphs also present a signature of the surface-particle interaction and could be used to estimate the interaction energy profile. Interestingly, the insights gained from the model help to explain some of the experimental observations with physisorbed streptavidin-coated polystyrene microbeads on quartz resonators. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.