Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chiu Law

Committee Members

Rani El Hajjar, Yi Hu, Nikolai Kouklin, Michael Weinert, Chiu Law


Optical devices, such as filters and sensors, have numerous advantages including compactness in size and immunity from electromagnetic interference. The fabrication of optical devices often requires precision and complicated processing, resulting in expensive and delicate components. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are biomaterials that can self-assemble into liquid crystals, similar to those used in electronic displays. This material can function as an optical grating by reflecting/transmitting circularly polarized light at certain wavelengths and viewing angles. Since gratings are building blocks of optical systems, like lasers and lidars, their fabrication at low costs will enable the further proliferation of optical technologies. Furthermore, if their fragility can be flipped into flexibility, the applications can be extended to wearable electronics. Here, we propose the investigation of flexible CNC composites and characterization is done through mechanical, electrical, optical, and thermal testing. Flexible CNCs with optical responses in the visible spectrum and infrared spectrum due to an applied voltage will be manufactured, targeting multiple applications. A novel fiber based experimental setup is additionally shown for the infrared CNC composite. For device applications, focus will be on dielectric elastomers in a parallel plate configuration for designing optical modulators and electric field (voltage) sensors.