Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering (Holcomb Dept. of)

Committee Member

Dr. Pingshan Wang, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Emil Alexov

Committee Member

Dr. Eric G. Johnson

Committee Member

Dr. Goutam Koley

Committee Member

Dr. Guigen Zhang


Dielectric spectroscopy (DS) is an important technique for scientific and technological investigations in various areas. DS sensitivity and operating frequency ranges are critical for many applications, including lab-on-chip development where sample volumes are small with a wide range of dynamic processes to probe. In this dissertation, the design and operation considerations of radio-frequency (RF) interferometers that are based on power-dividers (PDs) and quadrature-hybrids (QHs) is presented. The effective quality factor (Qeff) of the sensor is as high as ∼3.8×10^6 with 200 μL of water samples. Such interferometers are proposed to address the sensitivity and frequency tuning challenges of current DS techniques. A high-sensitivity and stable QH-based interferometer is demonstrated by measuring glucose-water solution at a concentration level that is ten times lower than some recent RF sensors and DNA solution at ~3×10^-15 mol/mL that is close to the previously reported lowest result while the sample volume is ~1 nL. Composition analysis of ternary mixture solutions are also demonstrated with a PD-based interferometer. Using a tunable liquid attenuator by accurately changing its liquid volume, the sensitivity of a RF interferometer is tuned automatically. The obtained Qeff of the interferometer is up to 1×10^8 at ~5 GHz, i.e., ~100 times higher than previously reported results. When material-under-test, i.e., methanol-water solution in this work, is used for the tuning, a self-calibration and measurement process is demonstrated from 2 GHz to 7.5 GHz at a methanol concentration level down to 5×10^-5 mole fraction, which is 100 times lower than previously reported results. A microwave scanning technique is reported for the measurement of floating giant unilamellar vesicles (GUV) in a 25 μm wide and 18.8 μm high microfluidic channel. The measurement is conducted at 2.7 GHz and 7.9 GHz, at which a split ring resonator (SRR) operates at odd modes. A 500 nm wide and 100 μm long SRR split gap is used to scan GUVs that are slightly larger than 25 μm in diameter. The smaller fluidic channel induces flattened GUV membrane sections, which make close contact with the SRR gap surface. The used GUVs are synthesized with POPC (16:0-18:1 PC 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine), SM (16:0 Egg Sphingomyelin) and cholesterol at different molecular compositions. It is shown that SM and POPC bilayers have different dielectric permittivity values, which also change with measurement frequencies. The obtained membrane permittivity values, such as 73.64-j6.13 for POPC at 2.7 GHz, are more than 10 times larger than previously reported results. The discrepancy is likely due to the measurement of dielectric polarization responses that are parallel with, other than perpendicular to, the membrane surface. POPC and SM-rich GUV surface sections are also clearly identified from scanning measurement results. Further work is needed to enable accurate analysis of membrane composition and dynamics at high spatial resolutions.



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