Student and Faculty Pair Sponsored by the Shirley and Bill Doane SURE Fund for Research in PDLC Cells


Garrett Hartley

Garrett Hartley, an undergraduate Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) participant in the college of arts and sciences, is supervised by faculty member John West, Ph.D., in his research on Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) cells. By researching these PDLC cells, they hope to identify specific qualities these cells possess and apply them to sensing and fibers.


William and Shirley Doane

Their research is being sponsored by Dr. Bill Doane and his wife Shirley. Dr. Bill Doane, Ph.D., is co-founder of Kent Displays, Inc., and former director of the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University. Dr. Bill Doane created the fund in honor of his wife Shirley and continues to sponsor students like Garrett in the SURE program because of his own experience in undergraduate research, which brought him into continued research in the physics field.


“I have met with Garrett Hartley. I am greatly impressed with this young man and the research he is performing under Professor West. The research is very exciting with opportunity for economic advancement. I also admire Garrett Hartley's attitude for entrepreneurship in capitalizing on his research developments,” said Dr. Bill Doane. “Research is of no benefit unless it is somehow put to use.”


Garrett and Professor West’s research partnership started in the SURE program last year in a partnership between the Liquid Crystal Institute, the College of Podiatric Medicine, and the School of Fashion. They were working with textiles by threading and coating them with liquid crystals. “In doing so, a color-changing fabric was created, something that would turn blues, greens, and reds at different temperatures,” explained Garrett.

During the SURE program this summer, they have been researching one of the other qualities of these PDLC cells in order to change the refractive index of the material. A webbing structure on the inside of these PDLC cells traps the liquid crystals in small bundles, allowing an electric field to be able to be used to manipulate the liquid crystals so they can go from opaque to clear. As Garrett continued, “that sounds fancy, but if you have ever seen those switching windows where they will be completely opaque and then somebody hits a button and they go completely clear, it is essentially that technology right there, but on a much smaller scale.”


Using his knowledge in computer science and robotics, Garrett is making a device that will measure the amount of light coming through the cell and can pinch the cell if not enough light is coming through, along with giving a time stamp and distance pinched. This can be used to modify the opaqueness of the cells, allowing them to be more clear.


“I am proud of the development of that right now, and why I am so proud of that is I am in a field that is specifically physics and chemistry, and I was able to find a way to integrate the computer science and robotics to come up with a unique solution,” said Garrett. “Right now, it seems like there is going to be some good use for it, and this is definitely the most unique piece of work I have done so far.”



John L. West

Garrett, Professor West, and Dr. Bill Doane all encourage participation in undergraduate research programs such as SURE. “I have worked with undergraduate students in the SURE program and other programs for over 30 years. Many have found these programs led to a future in research both at Kent State and in their careers,” said Professor West.

“With students like Garrett, I am extremely proud to have sponsored this program. I am sure there are, and will be many more, like Garrett,” said Dr. Bill Doane.


Garrett was featured in an episode of The Research Review podcast. Visit The Research Review podcast on Spotify to listen.


Written by: Ella Wold