A sensor device based on a single polymer cantilever and optical readout has been developed for detection of molecular recognition reactions without the need of a reference cantilever for subtraction of unspecific signals. Microcantilevers have been fabricated in the photoresist SU-8 with one surface passivated with a thin fluorocarbon layer. The SU-8 surface is sensitized with biological receptors by applying silanization methods, whereas the fluorocarbon surface remains inert to these processes. The thermal and mechanical properties of the chosen materials allow overcoming the main limitations of gold-coated silicon cantilevers: the temperature, pH, and ionic strength cross sensitivities. This is demonstrated by comparing the response of SU-8 cantilevers and that of gold-coated silicon nitride cantilevers to variations in temperature and pH. The sensitivity of the developed polymeric nanomechanical sensor is demonstrated by real-time detection of the human growth hormone with sensitivity in differential surface stress of about 1 mN/m. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.