Date of Award

December 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical Engineering

Committee Member

Pingshan Wang

Committee Member

Kenneth Marcus

Committee Member

Goutam Koley

Committee Member

Feng Chen

Committee Member

Eric Johnson


As a fast-developing analytical technique for separation, purification, identification and quantification of components in a mixture, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been widely used in various fields including biology, food, environment, pharmacy and so on. As a critical part in the HPLC system, the detector with the feature of high sensitivity, universal detection and gradient-elution compatibility is highly desired. In this dissertation, two types of radio-frequency (RF) sensors for HPLC gradient applications are presented: a tunable interferometer (TIM) and a modified square ring loaded resonator (SRLR). For the TIM-based sensor, the sensitivity is evaluated by measuring a few common chemicals in DI water at multiple frequencies from 0.98 GHz to 7.09 GHz. Less than 84 ppm limit of detection (LOD) is demonstrated. An algorithm is provided and used to obtain sample dielectric permittivity at each frequency point. When connected to a commercial HPLC system and injected with a 10 μL aliquot of 10000 ppm caffeine DI-water solution, the sensor yields a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) up to 10 under isocratic and gradient elution operations. Furthermore, the sensor demonstrates a capability to quantify co-eluted vitamin E succinate (VES) and vitamin D3 (VD3). For the SRLR-based sensor, where a transmission line and a ring are electrically shorted with a center gap, the detection linearity is characterized by measuring water-caffeine samples from 0.77 ppm to 1000 ppm when connected to the HPLC system. A 0.231 ppm limit of detection (LOD) is achieved, revealing a comparable sensitivity with commercial ultraviolet (UV) detectors. The compatibility of the proposed sensor to gradient elution is also demonstrated.

Besides, this work presents a method for the measurement of liquid permittivity without using liquid reference materials or calibration standards. The method uses a single transmission line and a single microfluidic channel which intercepts the line twice. As a result, two transmission line segments are formed with channel sections to measure liquid samples. By choosing a 2:1 ratio for the two line segment lengths, closed-form formulas are provided to calculate line propagation constants directly from measured S-parameters. Then, sample permittivity values are obtained. A coplanar waveguide is built and tested with de-ionized water, methanol, ethanol and 2-propanol from 0.1 GHz to 9 GHz. The obtained performance agrees with simulation results. The obtained sample permittivity values agree with commonly accepted values.

Radiofrequency (RF) non-thermal (NT) bio-effects have been a subject of debate and attracted significant interests due to the potential health risks or beneficial applications. A miniature transverse electro-magnetic (TEM) device is designed for broadband investigation of RF NT effects on Saccharomyces cerevisiae growth, a common yeast species. The frequency-dependent yeast permittivity, obtained by measuring the difference between the medium and yeast in the medium, was used to select the applied RF frequencies, i.e., 1.0 MHz, 3.162 MHz, 10 MHz and 905 MHz. The results showed that the RF field at 3.162 MHz reduced yeast growth rates by 11.7%; however, the RF fields at 1.0 MHz and 10 MHz enhanced cell growth rates by 16.2% and 4.3%, respectively. In contrast, the RF field at 905 MHz had no effect on the growth rates.



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