I may be dull, but at least I’m sensitive: The National Research Council discovers better sensor performance with duller resonance

News release

June 20, 2018 — Ottawa, ON — National Research Council of Canada

The latest discovery to come out of the National Research Council’s Nanotechnology Research Centre is completely changing the way scientists have thought over the last half-century about how sensors work, and holds significant potential for health and safety, manufacturing, and national defence.

Dr. Wayne Hiebert, a research officer at the National Research Council and adjunct professor of the University of Alberta and his team discovered that duller resonances can actually increase sensor performance. Simply put, if the bulls-eye on an archery target represents a resonance’s sharpness, dulling the resonance would make the bulls-eye larger, and allow the arrow to fly straighter towards it.

This discovery is also important in the context of nanomechanical sensors, which can detect pathogens or chemicals quickly and with exceptional precision, without relying on large lab equipment.


“People normally think of a direct trade-off between sensitivity and bandwidth; if you increase one, it is at the expense of the other. Increasing the damping on purpose negates this trade-off. In this regime, you can double bandwidth, as long as you have also doubled the damping, and keep the same sensitivity level.” 

Dr. Wayne Hiebert
Research Officer, National Research Council of Canada

“Preliminary results were presented at the NM14 conference in Hawaii and at the Frontiers of Nanomechanical Sensors conference in Italy, where attendees were both intrigued and excited by the finding. The National Research Council envisions advanced applications through various partnerships stemming from this discovery.”

Geneviève Tanguay
Vice-President of Emerging Technologies, National Research Council of Canada

Quick facts

  • The National Research Council’s Nanotechnology Research Centre was founded in 2017, and collaborates closely with the University of Alberta on joint research and development projects.

  • Other discoveries from the National Research Council’s Nanotechnology Research Centre include a nano guitar distortion pedal, a microscope project with Hitachi, and a single-atom computer chip.

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