Sensors based on nanoelectromechanical systems vibrating at high and ultrahigh frequencies1 are capable of levels of performance that surpass those of larger sensors.
Nanoelectromechanical devices have achieved unprecedented sensitivity in the detection of displacement2, mass3, force4 and charge5. To date, these milestones have been achieved with passive devices that require external periodic or impulsive stimuli to excite them into resonance. Here, we demonstrate an autonomous and self-sustaining nanoelectromechanical oscillator that generates continuous ultrahigh-frequency signals when powered by a steady d.c. source. The frequency determining element in the oscillator is a 428 MHz nanoelectromechanical resonator that is embedded within a tunable electrical feedback network to generate active and stable self-oscillation. Our prototype nanoelectromechanical oscillator exhibits excellent frequency stability, line width narrowing and low phase noise performance. Such ultrahigh frequency oscillators provide a comparatively simple means for implementing a wide variety of practical sensing applications. They also offer intriguing opportunities for nano mechanical frequency control, timing and synchronization.