Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Victor M. Bright

Second Advisor

Juliet T. Gopinath

Third Advisor

Yung-Chen Lee

Fourth Advisor

Jiangliang Xiao

Fifth Advisor

Xiaobo Yin


Miniaturized variable optical devices are important for the fields of medical technology, optical communication, and consumer imaging devices. Areas ranging from endoscopy and optogenetics to atomic clocks and imaging all benefit from versatile optical systems. These applications all require precise and rapid control of imaging focal depth and lateral scanning. Electrowetting variable optics is one emergent technology that has the capability to provide focus tuning, beam steering, and even phase modulation in a small and robust package which requires no moving parts. Furthermore, electrowetting based devices there are attractive due to their transmissive nature, polarization insensitivity, low insertion loss, low electrical power requirements, and high optical quality. These features mean that electrowetting adaptive optical components are an attractive solution, compared with MEMS and liquid crystal optical components.

Electrowetting is a technique that enables control of the shape of a liquid droplet with applied voltage. A conductive droplet on a dielectric surface alters its contact angle due to charges that build up between an underlying electrode and the surface of the droplet. This effect can be used to tune the curvature and tilt of liquids within cavities. The liquid boundary creates a high quality surface to use for lensing or steering applications. This thesis will focus on the development of electrowetting based lenses and prisms and applications in imaging for both visible and infrared wavelengths.

Within this dissertation is the first demonstration of electrowetting lenses for phase control, as well as the investigation of non-aqueous electrowetting lens liquids for electrowetting lenses operation in the infrared. Key considerations that affect the performance and reliability are dielectric material and thickness, liquid selection and source of ionic conduction. The optical devices presented herein utilize judicious selection of dielectric material and electrowetting liquids to enable low voltage variable optics and demonstrate applications in microscopy and microendoscopy.