Quartz Crystal Microbalance
Download PDF Sensor Instrument for Surface Interaction Analysis in Real Time Application Note


Sensor Instrument for Surface Analysis

in Real Time


3T Analytik qCell T QCM package

Explore Surface Interactions in a New Way of Operational Ease and Versatility

The qCell / qCell T is a quartz sensor instrument (QCM) for gaining real time insights into molecular interactions, biofilms, liquid properties and even the analysis of blood. The qCell / qCell T has been designed for unique operational ease and very short time to result.

3T Analytik qCell T quartz sensor instrument for high precision analysis

qCell T by 3T Analytik

qCell T comprises a small volume flow cell on a high precision and powerful Peltier driven temperature (T) control system for cooling and heating, a thermostated sample holder and an attached pump for liquid handling.



qCell is an entry-level version with identical features without T control and no integrated pump control. Sensor data acquisition, thermal control and fully automated pump operation are all carried out under the common uder interface of the qGraph software.

3T Analytik qCell quartz crystal microbalance for high precision analysis

QCM Principle and Measurement

Quartz sensors are highly sensitive to the mass and the material properties of deposited molecular layers as well as of the wetting liquids at their surface. Due to its sensitivity to mass, the technique is often referred to as Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM). The measuring principle of quartz sensor technique is based on the precise oscillation of the quartz sensors at their resonant frequency when an alternating voltage is applied. Depositions at the surface or wetting of the surface result in a frequency shift and – depending on the material properties – additionally in a damping of the oscillation. Both, the frequency shift and the damping (dissipation) of the oscillation are captured with the qCell / qCell T instrument with high resolution and in real time.

QCM graphs by 3T Analytik

In the figures below the graphs of frequency and damping of three characteristic examples are shown, respectively. A thin, rigid layer (e.g. a thin protein layer or a thin metal layer) will cause a shift in frequency alone, without a change in damping (1). A change of viscosity of purely Newtonian liquids (e.g. water, treacle, milk or fruit juice) will cause a decrease in frequency and an increase in damping, to equal amounts (2). A viscoelastic layer (e.g. layers of polymers, biofilms, bacteria or cells) results likewise in a frequency and damping shift in opposite directions, but with different amplitudes (3). These examples reveal, that by analyzing these graphs it becomes possible to determine properties as viscosity (or shear module), mass or thickness of interfacial layers.


Practical Aspects:

Mounting the sensor chip for 3T Analytik QCM

Sensor Chip
Each quartz sensor comes mounted on a thin polymer sensor sheet of precise dimensions. The sensor chip is labeled with a unique serial number and features an asymmetric shape with grooves (a) which precisely fits into a flat cavity at the bottom of the open-architecture flow cell (b). Different quartz coatings (e.g. Ti, Ag, Cu, Pt, polymers, proteins) are available upon request.

Positioning the sensor chip for 3T Analytik QCM

The sensor chip is easily removed and replaced using a pair of tweezers without risk of damaging the sensors or spoiling their surface. It fits accurately, secured against rotation, into its support fixture on the qCell / qCell T and establishes a high quality electrical connection.

Securing the sensor chip for 3T Analytik QCM

The stainless steel flow cell unit is now positioned over the sensor chip (c) and locked with a quarter turn in a bayonet style (d) to complete and seal the flow cell, which can then be filled with sample solution exposing it to the sensor surface. This design ensures along simple operation high repeatability and quality of the sensor signal.

Operating the 3T Analytik QCM

The design of the flow cell guarantees bubble free filling together with uniform and reproducible flow dynamics. The filling process as well as all situations of measurement can be observed visually through the optical window above the sensor surface. After emptying, the flow cell can be removed without risk of contamination of the sensor support fixture.


"We use qCell T to measure cellular response in toxicology and diagnostics applications. The instrument is easy to use and has a good and user friendly software. We like it."

September 10, 2013


Head of Technological and Development at CETICS Healthcare Technologies GmbH Stuttgart Area, Germany

"qCell T is a breakthrough product of modern QCM instrumentation, which can be applied in broad variety of solution-phase QCM measurements. The instrument and the software is very user-friendly and reliable."

November 20, 2013


Research Assistant at University of Connecticut Hartford, Connecticut Area

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About 3T Analytik

3T analytik is a German spin-off company from Hettich Centrifuges and the Biosensor Research Group of the University Clinic Tuebingen. The company develops laboratory equipment designed for label-free research on molecular interactions and electrochemical effects using quartz crystal microbalances (QCM). 3T analytik products can be used for a wide array of applications including biofilm investigation, viscosity assessment, and immunological, hematological, biological or electrochemical assay development.

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