Q-Sense Explorer

The Q-Sense Explorer enables real time analysis of thin films and surface interactions using Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation (QCM-D) monitoring technology in a single channel.

Q-Sense Explorer

The Q-Sense Explorer enables real time analysis of thin films and surface interactions using Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation (QCM-D) monitoring technology in a single channel.

Manufacturer Q-Sense
Product Series Q-Sense QCM-D
Measurement principle Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation
Application Surface & Thin Film Interactions
Sample type thin films, polymers, proteins, surfactants, lipids, cells
Sensor SystemSingle channel
Minimum sample volume200µl
Working temperature15 to 65°C

Product Overview

The Q-Sense Explorer enables real-time analysis of surface-molecule interactions by measuring two parameters—frequency (related to mass/thickness) and dissipation (related to rigidity).This single channel system comprises an electronic unit and an analysis chamber which houses a single flow module that holds the sensor. A peristaltic pump connected to the flow module controls the loading of the sample on the sensor surface. Changing the buffer/substrate solutions enables a wide range of experimental conditions.

The Q-Sense High Pressure option provides the opportunity to explore real-life conditions of high pressure (maximum of 200 Bar) and high temperature (upto 150 °C) in your experimental set up.

Q-Sense Dfind Software. All data acquisition and analysis tools are integrated in this one program. The information embedded in the raw data is extracted to provide measurements such as mass, thickness, viscoelastic properties, adsorption rates etc. This intuitive software guides the user from raw data reviewing, through the modelling and to the final report. The graphical interface helps to quantify, compile and compare data.

This versatile and modular instrument is compatible with the whole range of optional measurement modules and Q-Sense sensor surfaces. See standard coatings.

What is QCM-D?

Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation (QCM-D) is a label free technique that provides real time analysis of thin film formation and interactions. The film is formed on a sensor which consists of a thin quartz disc sandwiched between a pair of electrodes. An AC voltage oscillates the sensor at high frequency. The solution of film material flows across the surface of the sensor and molecular layers of film build up on the surface. The sensor mass changes and so does its oscillation frequency. The frequency change is related to mass/thickness of the film.Mass changes can be measured with nanogram sensitivity – less than 1% of a protein

Frequency-mass. If the film is thin and rigid the sensor oscillation frequency can be used in the Sauerbrey relation to calculate the total mass on the sensor surface. If the film material density is known then the film thickness can be calculated.

Dissipation-viscoelasticity. Viscoelastic films dampen the sensor oscillation more than rigid films and the Sauerbrey relation is no longer valid. By measuring the dissipation rate and driving the sensor at multiple harmonic frequencies it is possible to calculate the values of film thickness, viscosity, elasticity and density.

Applications include protein conformational changes, lipids, polymers and whole cells. It is possible to determine the water content of molecular layers. Interactions can be studied on many sensor coatings such as gold and polymers.

  • Demonstration video
  • Benefits
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Demonstration video

The Q-Sense High Pressure option


Measure the mass of molecular layers formed on the sensor with nanogram sensitivity.

Structural changes measured simultaneously to distinguish between two similar binding events or observe a phase transition in bound layers.

Real time measurements allowing recording and evaluation of kinetics

Flow measurements in a temperature-controlled environment

Multi-frequency measurements 6 overtones can be measured enabling greater modelling accuracy.

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The QCM-D with  Nanoplasmonic Spectroscopy (NPS)

Insplorion Acoulyte combines simultaneous real time measurements of Nanoplasmonic Spectroscopy (NPS) with  Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation monitoring (QCM-D). This enables the measurement of changes in dry mass (refractive index), wet (acoustic) mass, and viscoelasticity for the same sample on the same surface and at the same time. The unit fits directly onto Q-Sense Explorer (E1) and Analyzer (E4) instruments when equipped with the Q-Sense window module.

The QCM-D with simultaneous microscopy observations.








A flow module with a window combines QCM-D measurements with visual access to the sensor surface.

The QCM-D data reveals mass and structural changes while the microscope image shows changes in shape and movement. This enables observation of light-induced reactions and bio-studies such as cell adhesion. The window flow module can also be used to study irradiation sensitive processes. The microscopy module requires the separate provision of a microscope.

The QCM-D with electrochemistry measurements.

The electrochemistry flow module combines QCM-D measurements with electrochemistry analysis simultaneously. It provides real-time information on the mass and structure of thin films while a potentiostat initiates an interaction or provides interfacial charge transfer data.

Electrochemical measurements can be made by cyclic voltammetry and impedance spectroscopy. Applications include electrostatic interactions of polymers and biomolecules with surfaces and membrane potential measurements. The Electrochemistry module requires the separate provision of a potentiostat.

The QCM-D with ellipsometry measurements.

The ellipsometry flow module combines QCM-D measurements with ellipsometry analysis simultaneously. QCM-D measures the viscoelasticity of thin films while ellipsometry measures the film refractive index. Film thickness can be determined with both techniques, and results compared.

This combination of techniques makes it possible to quantify the solvent content of a film and distinguish between structural changes caused by the solvent or conformation changes caused by cross-linking. The ellipsometry flow module requires the separate provision an ellipsometer.

The QCM-D for measurements at extreme temperatures.

This module has a measurement chamber designed for QCM-D analysis from 4-150°C. It enables characterisation of the temperature dependence of film properties, including phase transitions, film degradation, shrinkage, swelling, and changes in viscoelasticity. It is also suitable to monitor surface interactions such as molecular uptake/release and conformational changes.

The QCM-D for Humidity studies.

The Humidity module enables measurements of vapor uptake and release from thin films coated on the sensor. A membrane is located just above the sensor surface creating an air gap. A saturated salt solution flows over the membrane to generate a specific relative humidity in the air gap. The humidity above the sensor equilibrates almost instantly giving real time measurements. A typical application is to measure swelling of polymer or cellulose films

The QCM-D open access module.

This enables direct access to the sensor so that samples can be pipetted directly onto the sensor surface. One application is the measurement of bulk viscosity which can be calculated from the frequency and dissipation responses. The open module comes with a lid to avoid sample evaporation.

The QCM-D Atomic Layer Deposition Holder.

This enables QCM-D measurements in a vacuum or gas phase. The ALD Holder is open on both sides of the sensor so that there is equal pressure on either side. This enables measurements at both low and high pressures.

Sensor coatings:

The sensor coating is a critical part of a QCM-D experiment. There is a wide selection of standard sensor coatings and customised coatings are fabricated upon request.

Aluminium (Al) Iron (Fe) Silicon Nitride (SiN)
Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) Iron Oxide (Fe2O3) Silicon Oxycarbide (SiOC)
AlSiO Iron Oxide (Fe3O4) Silver (Ag)
Amorphous Fluoropolymer Indium Tin Oxide (ITO on Au) Soda-lime glass
Barium Titanate (BaTiO3) Magnesium (Mg) Stainless Steel (S2343, 316)
Biotin (on gold) Molybdenum (Mo) SStainless Steel (L605)
Borosilicate glass NHS-Amine Coupling Tantalum (Ta)
Cellulose (on SiO2) Nylon “6,6” Tantalum Nitride (TaN)
Chromium (Cr) Polyethylenimine (PEI) Titanium (Ti)
Cobalt (Co) Platinum (Pt) Tungsten (W)
Copper (Cu) Polystyrene (Ps) TZinc Oxide (ZnO)
Gold (Ag) Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) Zinc Sulfide (ZnS)
Gold (Ti Adhesion) Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) Zirconium Oxide (ZrO)
Graphene* NEW! Silicon (Si)
His-tag Capturing Silicon Carbide (SiC)
Hydroxyapatite Silicon Dioxide (SiO2)
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