Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Coutu, Jr., Ronald A.

Second Advisor

Richie, James E.

Third Advisor

Schneider, Susan C.


Radio frequency microelectromechanical systems (RF MEMS) devices are microdevices used to switch or modify signals from the RF to millimeter wave (mmWave) frequency range. Liquid crystals (LCs) are widely used as electro-optic modulators for display devices. An electric field-induced electrical conductivity modulation of pure LC media is quite low which makes it difficult to use for RF MEMS switching applications. Currently, RF MEMS devices are characterized as an excellent option between solid-state and electromechanical RF switches to provide high isolation, low insertion loss, low power usage, excellent return loss, and large frequency band. However, commercial usage is low due to their lower switching speed, reliability, and repeatability. This research presents an electrical conductivity enhancement through the use of carbon nanotube (CNT) doping of LCs to realize a high-performance RF LC-CNT switching device. This thesis presents simulations of an RF switch using a coplanar waveguide (CPW) with a LC-CNT composite called 4-Cyano-4’-pentylbiphenyl multi-walled nanotube (5CB-MWNT) that is suitable for RF applications. The electrical conductivity modulation and RF switch performance of the 5CB-MWNT composite is determined using Finite Element Analysis (FEA). The simulations will present data on the coplanar waveguide’s s-parameters at the input and output ports S11 and S21 to measure return and insertion loss respectively, two key parameters for determining any RF switch’s performance. Furthermore, this thesis presents applications for improving tunable phased antenna arrays using the LC-CNT composite to allow for beam steering with high-gain and directivity to provide a broad 3D scannable coverage of an area. Tunable antennas are an important characteristic for 5G applications to achieve an optimal telecommunication system to prevent overcrowding of antennas and reduce overall system costs. This research investigates various device geometries with 5CB-MWNT to realize the best performing RF device for RF applications and 5G telecommunication systems. This research presents return and insertion loss data for three waveguide device configurations: CPW, coplanar waveguide grounded (CPWG), and finite ground coplanar waveguide grounded (FG-CPWG). The best results are shown using the CPW configuration. The return loss for the LC-CNT device showed a 5 dB improvement from -7.5 dB to -12.5 dB when using the LC-CNT signal line device. The insertion loss for this configuration showed a much more consistent 0 to -0.3 dB insertion loss value with much less noise when using the LC-CNT device compared to the -0.3 to -1 dB insertion loss value with heavy noise when using the Au signal line device. For the other two configurations the return loss and insertion loss value stayed the same indicating there is no loss in performance when using the LC-CNT switching mechanism. This is ideal due to the benefits that the LC-CNT switching mechanism provides like device reliability and increased switching speeds.

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