Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department



Rao, Apparao M


Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the study of cantilevered beams on the micron and submicron dimension. The applications and research that involve these structures include state-of-the-art electronic components, sensors, and more recently, studies aimed at elucidating the mechanical properties of cantilevered carbon nanotubes and semiconducting nanowires. In nanoelectro-mechanical systems (NEMS), it is desirable to develop a capacitive readout method involving only two electrodes that are fully compliant with standard CMOS technology. However, the main drawback with this method is the ability to detect resonance in the presence of parasitic capacitance, which is due to the fringing electric fields present between the electrodes (cantilever and the counter electrode).
The work presented in this thesis deals with the electrical actuation / detection of mechanical resonance in individual micron and sub-micron sized cantilevers. The aim is to overcome parasitic capacitance which masks the detection of resonance signal in these cantilevers thereby increasing the signal-to-background ratio (SBR). In our method, a silicon microcantilever, or cantilevered multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWNT), is placed close to a counter electrode whose potential is varied at a frequency ω. An electrical signal comes from the flow of charge on and off of the cantilever when ω equals a resonant frequency 0 of the cantilever. Higher harmonics of 0 are measured to overcome the parasitic capacitance. This technique, termed harmonic detection of resonance (HDR), allows detection at frequencies well removed from the driving frequency thereby increasing the SBR by ~3 orders of magnitude. It is shown that HDR allows the detection of resonance even in multi-walled carbon nanotubes, which have diameters on the order of 50 nm. Furthermore, superharmonics inherent to electrostatic actuation, are shown to occur at driving frequencies of ω0/n where n=1,2,3,... .