AFM microfluidic cantilevers as weight sensors for live single cell mass measurements

Chen Chi Chien, Jiaxin Jiang, Bin Gong, Tao Li, Angelo Gaitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reliably measuring small mass changes at the single-cell level is challenging. In this manuscript, we report the use of microfluidic cantilevers in liquid with sub-nanogram scale weight sensing capability for the measurement of cellular mass changes of living single cells. With this instrumentation, we were able to perform fast mass measurements within 3 min. We show results of mass measurements of polystyrene and metal beads of various sizes (smallest weight measured at 280 ± 95 pg) and live single-cell mass measurements in a physiologically relevant environment. We also performed finite element analysis to simulate and optimize the structural design and materials of cantilevers. Our simulation results indicate that using polymer materials, such as SU8 and polyimide, could improve the minimal detectable mass by three-fold compared to conventional silicon cantilevers. The simulations also suggest that smaller dimensions of length, width, and thickness would improve the mass detection capability of microfluidic cantilevers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number095009
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • atomic force microscopy
  • mass measurements
  • microcantilevers
  • microfluidics
  • single-cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


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