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A microbalance is an instrument capable of making precise measurements of weight of objects of relatively small mass: of the order of a million parts of a gram. In comparison, a standard analytical balance is 100 times less sensitive; i.e. it is limited in precision to 0.1 milligrams. Microbalances are generally used in a laboratory as standalone instruments but are also incorporated into other instruments, such as thermogravimetry, sorption/desorption systems, and surface property instruments. It is the precision of the microbalance that distinguishes it from other weighing devices.

Quartz crystal microbalance is a very sensitive mass deposition sensor based on the piezoelectric properties of the quartz crystal. This technique uses the changes in resonance frequency of the crystal to measure the mass on the surface because the resonance frequency is highly dependent on any changes of the crystal mass. A quartz crystal microbalance is capable of measuring mass deposition down to 0.1 nanograms. The sensitivity of the microbalance is lessened the closer the fulcrum is to the middle.