In this paper, we describe the design and development of a high sensitivity, large dynamic range force transducer capable of measuring transient force changes in tension and compression. Conventional force transducers typically rely on the deformation of strain gauges, or on servo-mechanical load cells. While strain gauge transducers exhibit a rapid response time, they are subject to electrical noise, and typically have a minimum useful limit of approximately 10-5 N. Servo-mechanical transducers have poor response times and exhibit compliance in the axis of deformation that is unacceptable for many applications. The research objective is to develop a novel force transducer based on the change in optical properties with loading of a pre-stressed polymer. The concept utilizes a pre-stressed polymer material as a linkage to which a force would be applied either in compression or tension. The molecular deformation of the polymer linkage will be analyzed using miniature optical components arranged as a phase-modulated polarimeter capable of birefringence measurements on the order of 10-9. Calibration of the measured birefringence with known loads provides the necessary calibration parameters. The instrument is capable of directional force measurements and is extremely accurate for measuring low-level forces. Since the force transducer is based on optical techniques, it would be resistant to electronic noise, and would allow measurement of rapidly changing loads. The best available force transducers capable of measuring transient responses have a lower resolution of approximately 10-5 N. Research with the rheology of fluids, transient flows of pharmaceuticals in combinatorial research, biological tissue response, and biomimetic adhesive research often require force measurements below this range. Although ultra-microbalances exist that have sensitivities well below this range, the averaging techniques employed that allow these measurements make them unsuitable for transient flows, as does the physical size of the systems.