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Piezoelectric thin film zinc oxide (ZnO) and its ternary alloy magnesium zinc oxide (Mg/sub x/Zn/sub 1-x/O) have broad applications in transducers, resonators, and filters. In this work, we present a new bulk acoustic wave (BAW) structure consisting of Al/Mg/sub x/Zn/sub 1-x/O/n/sup +/-ZnO/r-sapphire, where Al and n/sup +/ type ZnO serve as the top and bottom electrode, respectively. The epitaxial Mg/sub x/Zn/sub 1-x/O films have the same epitaxial relationships with the substrate as ZnO on r-Al/sub 2/O/sub 3/, resulting in the c-axis of the Mg/sub x/Zn/sub 1-x/O being in the growth plane. This relationship promotes shear bulk wave propagation that affords sensing in liquid phase media without the dampening effects found in longitudinal wave mode BAW devices. The BAW velocity and electromechanical coupling coefficient of Mg/sub x/Zn/sub 1-x/O can be tailored by varying the Mg composition, which provides an alternative and complementary method to adjust the BAW characteristics by changing the piezoelectric film thickness. This provides flexibility to design the operating frequencies of thin film bulk acoustic wave devices. Frequency responses of devices with two acoustic wave modes propagating in the specified structure are analyzed using a transmission line model. Measured results show good agreement with simulation.