Review of Scientific Instruments

A femtojoule calorimeter using micromechanical sensors

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We describe a highly sensitive new type of calorimeter based on the deflection of a "bimetallic" micromechanical sensor as a function of temperature. The temperature changes can be due to ambient changes, giving a temperature sensor or, more importantly, due to the heat absorbed by a coating on the sensor, giving a heat sensor. As an example we show the results of using the sensor as a photothermal spectrometer. The small dimensions and low thermal mass of the sensor make it highly sensitive and we demonstrate a sensitivity of roughly 100 pW. By applying a simple model of the system the ultimate sensitivity is expected to be of the order of 10 pW. The thermal response time of the cantilever can also be determined, giving an estimate of the minimum detectable energy of the sensor. This we find to be 150 fJ and again from our model, expect a minimum value of the order of 20 fJ.