Nanomechanical resonators having small mass, high resonance frequency and low damping rate are widely employed as mass detectors. We study the performance of such a detector when the resonator is driven into a region of nonlinear oscillations [1]. We predict theoretically that the mass sensitivity of the device in this region may exceed the upper bound imposed by thermo-mechanical noise upon the sensitivity when operating in the linear region. On the other hand, we find that the high mass sensitivity is accompanied by a slow response of the system to a change in the mass. For experimental demonstration we employ homodyne detection (see Fig. 1) for readout of the output signal of an optical displacement detector, which monitors the motion of a doubly clamped nanomechanical resonator made of Pd-Au [2, 3]. The nanomechanical resonator is driven into the region of nonlinear oscillations (see Fig. 2) and the region of bistability is identified (see Fig. 3). As expected theoretically [1] we find that when operating close to the edge of the bistability region the device exhibits strong intermodulation amplification [2] (see Fig. 3). Moreover, strong noise squeezing in the output signal of the homodyne detector is observed in this region [3] (see Fig. 4). An alternative mass detection scheme, in which the resonator is driven into a stochastic resonance, will also be discussed [4].

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