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Nanocrystalline Enhanced Quartz Crystal Microbalance Sensors (NCQCM)


The University of North Florida's Nanocrystalline Enhanced Quartz Microbalance Sensors, also known as NCQCM sensors, can be trained to "electronically sniff" and detect in near real-time almost any combination of mixtures. UNF NCQCM Sensors are cutting-edge technology and their applications are numerous. Potentially, government agencies can have a more advanced way to ensure national security, the medical field can rapidly diagnose illnesses, and the quality and consistency of manufacturing and agriculture goods can be carefully monitored and maintained.

UNF NCQCM sensors are customizable and can be configured to detect a wide range of analytes. At present, they have been tested with over 160 mixtures including alcoholic beverages (individual types and brands), teas (brands), marker pens (brands), vapors, food and fruit products, explosive materials, petroleum fuels, adulterated fuels, alkenes, volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, ketones, and esters. See the detailed list of analytes. The sensors work at room temperature and the response time of the sensors is in near-real time. Additionally, the size of the quartz crystal holder and frequency measurement circuits can be miniaturized, allowing for more design alternatives.

"e-nose" recognizes almost any mixture or combination of mixtures

nano crystalline oxide thin film layer for superior sensitivity

works at room temperature for reduced power consumption and size

works with aqueous solutions and gas vapors

faster response time for multiple analytes


UNF NCQCM sensor applications are varied and numerous:


  • Exacting quality-level detection capabilities. Detection of product grading, product adulterations, and freshness standards.
  • Ensure standards are met by monitoring product consistency and quality.
  • Reduction of costs associated with quality assurance, customer dissatisfaction, and waste.


  • Screening and detection of explosive materials in passenger luggage at airports, parcels or packages at postal and courier services, and monitoring for explosive materials and chemicals in containers at ports.
  • Detection of explosive material vapors such as PETN, RDX, TNT, Compound AS, Compound B, Hexolite, lED, toxic chemicals and gases, and gunpowder in combat, underground, and from mines in oceans.
  • When NCQCM sensors are combined with UNF NOS gas sensors, the two can work orthogonally.
  • National Security detection of chemical threats.
  • As portable, low cost, and easy to operate systems, UNF NCQCM sensors can be very useful to government authorities in rapid and efficient testing of gasoline and diesel fuel quality.


  • Detection and monitoring of quality, brands, grades, freshness, adulterations and additives.
  • Can be customized to meet the specific needs of individual companies.
  • Monitoring of different grades of quality within products such as tea, coffee, and tobacco.


  • Potential early detection of diseases such as lung cancer or tuberculosis.
  • Patient routine and annual screening processes are improved by using UNF NCQCM sensors for immediate testing and reporting results, all at the initial point of patient contact.

Invention Details

Nanocrystalline enhanced quartz crystal microbalance sensing is accomplished through the absorption and desorption kinetics of gases, vapors, and odors modifying the dampening of the crystal's resonance vibration frequency. UNF NCQCM sensors are electronic "e-noses," or devices that can learn to recognize mixtures or combination of mixtures. In other words, they are capable of mimicking the human senses of smell and taste. This innovative technology can categorize and identify mixtures, and then determine the brand, and then, if the brand fits within established standards of quality. For example, UNF NCQCM sensors can determine if an unknown liquid is rum, and if that rum is Bacardi, and if so, if the sample satisfies the quality standards for Bacardi.


See the list of identified analytes.


US Patent 7,930,923. Invented by Dr. Nirmalkumar Patel and Dr. Jay Huebner, Department of Physics.

More Information: John Kantner, Associate VP for Research,, (904) 620-2455.