Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Yuguang Cai


This dissertation serves to study a protein's conformation-function relationship since immobilized proteins often behave differently from their solution-state counterparts. Therefore, this study is important to the application of protein-based biodevices. Another aim of this dissertation is to explore a new approach to realize low voltage electrowetting without the help of oil bath. Utilizing this approach, a protein micro-separation was realized. Additionally, the interfacial properties of ionic liquid (IL) solid-like layer, which played a key role in electrowetting, was studied for further developments of IL-based applications.

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) was utilized in the study and played multiple roles in this dissertation. First, AFM was used as a fabrication tool. In the contact mode, conductive AFM tip was used to conduct the electrochemical oxidation to create a chemical pattern or to conduct an electrowetting experiment. Subsequently, AFM was used as a characterization tool in the tapping mode to characterize the surface structure, the thickness, and the surface potential. Furthermore, AFM in the contact mode was used as a measurement tool to measure the tribological force properties of sample.

The results of the study concerning the conformational change in immobilized calmodulin showed that the immobilized CaM retained its activity. Additionally, the immobilization of CaM on a solid support did not interfere with the ability of the protein to bind calcium, as well as CaM kinase binding domain. For the electrowetting experiment, our data suggested that the ultra-high capacitance density of the IL dielectric layer leads to the low voltage electrowetting. We also successfully demonstrated the streptavidin and GFP proteins separation by Electrowetting-on-Dielectric (EWOD) force. The results of the surface properties study indicated that the charge and dipole of the substrate can influence the structures and properties of the IL interfacial layer.

Our study would be beneficial in research and assay work involving engineered proteins, as well as the study and development of electrowetting applications.