Micro-electromechanical sensors in the analytical field
Micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS) for use as sensors represent one of the most exciting new fields in analytical chemistry today. These systems are advantageous over currently available non-miniaturized sensors, such as quartz crystal microbalances, thickness shear mode resonators, and flexural plate wave oscillators, because of their high sensitivity, low cost and easy integration into automated systems. In this article, we present and discuss the evolution in the use of MEMS and NEMS, which are basically cantilever-type sensors, as good analytical tools for a wide variety of applications. We discuss the analytical features and the practical potential of micro(nano)-cantilever sensors, which combine the synergetic advantages of selectivity, provided by their functionalization, and the high sensitivity, which is attributed largely to the extremely small size of the sensing element. An insight is given into the different types of functionalization and detection strategies and a critical discussion is presented on the existing state of the art concerning the applications reported for mechanical microsensors. New developments and the possibilities for routine work in the near future are also covered.