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University of Hawaii

Electrical Engineering

Tunable Optics and Liquid Metal Electronics Enabled by Electrowetting

Date: 2017-07-13           Add to Google Calendar
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Location: Holmes Hall 389
Speaker: Dr. Alex Watson (UES Inc.)


The phenomenon of electrowetting has recently been used as a method for manipulating liquids confined to millimeter scales and below. The basis for this liquid actuation arises from electrically altering the surgace tensions between a conductive liquid, an ambient surrounding fluid and the substrate. Combining this technique with thin film fabrication and microfluidics opens the door to tunable and reconfigurable liquid-based devices spanning a broad range of areas including lab-on-chip-, digital microfluidics, displays, optics, and electronics. The goal of these agile liquid devices is to enable more functionality than a static solid component (e.g. glass lens or copper antenna) has in a small footprint. One advantage that electrically controlled actuation has versus tunable devices based on mechanical motion or pneumatic pumping, is that the former does not require bulky periphery components. Coupled with response times in the 10s of milliseconds and the lack of mechanical wear and tear, electrowetting based tunable devices show promise for reconfigurable optics and electronics. This talk will focus on the development of electrowetting lenses and prisms and the applications they can serve for imaging and optical technology, as well as the study of applications for electrowetting with non-toxic liquid metal alloys.


Dr. Watson is a research scientist for UES Inc. working at the Air Force Research Lab in Dayton, OH, where he is part of the Liquid Metal research team. His current studies involve electrostatic manipulation of non-toxic, gallium alloys that remain liquid at room temperature. Controlled movement of this metallic material has promising impact for reconfigurable electronics. Dr. Watson earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder where he studied tunable optical devices based on the same elecrowetting effect he currently studies for liquid metal electronics. He earned his bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Dayton studying micro- and nano-fabrication for creating optical filters.