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Systems and methods for characterization of materials and combinatorial libraries with mechanical oscillators

Methods and apparatus for screening diverse arrays of materials are provided. In one aspect, systems and methods are provided for imaging a library of materials using ultrasonic imaging techniques. The system includes one or more devices for exciting an element of the library such that acoustic waves are propagated through, and from, the element. The acoustic waves propagated from the element are detected and processed to yield a visual image of the library element. The acoustic wave data can also be processed to obtain information about the elastic properties of the library element. In another aspect, systems and methods are provided for generating acoustic waves in a tank filled with a coupling liquid. The library of materials is then placed in the tank and the surface of the coupling liquid is scanned with a laser beam. The structure of the liquid surface disturbed by the acoustic wave is recorded, the recorded disturbance being representative of the physical structure of the library. In another aspect of the invention, a mechanical resonator is used to evaluate various properties (e.g., molecular weight, viscosity, specific weight, elasticity, dielectric constant, conductivity, etc.) of the individual liquid elements of a library of materials. The resonator is designed to ineffectively excite acoustic waves. The frequency response of the resonator is measured for the liquid element under test, preferably as a function of time. By calibrating the resonator to a set of standard liquids with known properties, the properties of the unknown liquid can be determined. An array of library elements can be characterized by a single scanning transducer or by using an array of transducers corresponding to the array of library elements. Alternatively, multiple resonators of differing design may be used to evaluate each element of a library of elements, thus providing improved dynamic range and sensitivity.
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