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Rev Sci Instrum. 2007 Feb;78(2):025101.

Highly sensitive silicon crystal torque sensor operating at the thermal noise limit.

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  • 1Institut für Experimentalphysik, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Universitätsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf Germany.


We describe a sensitive torque detector, based on a silicon single-crystal double-paddle oscillator (DPO). The high Q-factor (approximately 10(5) at room temperature and in vacuum) makes DPOs well suited for the detection of weak forces. The limiting sensitivity of a sensor is given by Brownian (thermal) noise if all external disturbances are eliminated. In this case, the minimum detectable force can be decreased by measuring over a time significantly longer than the oscillator's relaxation time. We demonstrate operation in this regime, with integration times of up to 14 h. A resulting torque sensitivity of 2 x 10(-18) N m is reached. Tests are performed to show that the sensor is only affected by thermal noise. The present sensor is well suited for measurements of extremely weak forces, e.g., of gravitational attraction between laboratory masses.

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