Junhong Chen

Junhong Chen
Ph.D., ASME Fellow, NAI Fellow
UW System Regent Scholar
UWM Distinguished Professor
Excellence in Engineering Faculty Fellow in Nanotechnology
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Director, NSF I/UCRC on Water Equipment and Policy (WEP)
Director, Nanotechnology for Sustainable Energy and Environment Lab
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
3200 North Cramer Street
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Office: EMS 1225
Phone: 1-414-229-2615
Fax: 1-414-229-6958


Junhong Chen is currently on leave from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) to serve as a Program Director (PD) for the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) with an annual program budget of $72M.  He also serves as a co-Chair of the NSF-wide ERC Working Group to design the next-generation ERC program (Gen-4 ERC).  In addition, he is a representative from the Engineering Directorate serving on the NSF-wide Working Groups for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), NSF Research Traineeship (NRT), Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI), responsible for the final selection of GRFP, NRT, and EFRI awards.  Finally, he manages active NSF I-Corps for Learning grants (I-Corps L) and occasionally helps with Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) programs.

Dr. Chen is a Distinguished University Professor, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, an Excellence in Engineering Faculty Fellow in Nanotechnology at UWM, and a Regent Scholar of UW-System. He is also the Director of the Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on Water Equipment and Policy, supported by the U.S. NSF and water-based industrial partners, and the founder of NanoAffix Science, LLC. Dr. Chen received his B.E. degree (in Thermal Engineering) in 1995 from Tongji University, China, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees (both in Mechanical Engineering) in 2000 and 2002, respectively, from the University of Minnesota (Advisor: Professor Jane Davidson). Dr. Chen’s dissertation research focused on understanding corona discharges and corona plasma-enhanced chemical reactions, e.g., ozone generation and chemical vapor deposition. From October 2002 to August 2003, he was a postdoctoral scholar in Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Advisor: Professor Richard Flagan), where he studied the use of plasma for nanoparticle synthesis. In August 2003, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UWM, where he was promoted to tenured Associate Professor and Professor in 2008 and 2011, respectively.  He received a joint appointment in the UWM Department of Materials Science and Engineering in January 2013.

Professor Chen’s research goal is to impact our society through scientific discoveries and sustainable technological innovations.  His research interest thus lies in nanomaterial innovations, particularly hybrid nanomaterials featuring rich interfaces, for sustainable energy and environment.  His approach is to combine multidisciplinary experiments with first-principles calculations to design and discover novel nanomaterials for engineering various sensing and energy devices with superior performance.  The chemical and biological sensors address the current unmet need for low-cost, real-time, sensitive and selective detection of a wide range of analytes attractive for innovation at nexus of food-energy-water systems (INFEWS), smart and connected health (SCH), smart and connected communities (SCC), Internet of Things (IoT), and next-generation smart and resilient infrastructures, through interfacing with smart phones and terminals loaded with machine-learning, big-data analytics.  The energy devices, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, solar cells and fuel cells, address the current need for cost-effective, high-performance production and storage of renewable energy and are attractive for future sustainable energy and environment systems.  His research also attempts to address the low-cost, scalable nanomanufacturing of such sensor and energy devices through additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing.  For more details, please visit his research group website at  Most of his research projects are at the convergent intersection of interesting fundamental science and industrial applications with ample opportunities for new discoveries, which creates an excellent vehicle for educating students.  Prof. Chen also is a pioneer in technology translation and commercialization through exemplary industrial partnership and the university start-up company.

Professor Chen has made seminal contributions to general areas of hybrid nanomaterials and their device applications (e.g., various sensors, solar cells, lithium-ion batteries, and supercapacitors), and corona discharge-induced chemical reactions (e.g., ozone production). His group has invented several methods to assemble various zero-dimensional (0-D) nanocrystals onto one-dimensional (1-D) and two-dimensional (2-D) nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene, producing a new class of hybrid nanomaterials. These hybrid nanomaterials could potentially display not only the unique properties of nanocrystals and those of nanotubes or graphene, but also additional novel properties due to the interaction between the nanocrystal and the CNT or graphene.  Therefore, the hybrid nanomaterials are promising for a wide range of applications including in sensing, nanoelectronic and optoelectronic devices, catalysis, nanomanufacturing, renewable energy harvest and storage, biomedical engineering, and environmental remediation.  The availability of affordable hybrid nanostructures and their fundamental properties will thus accelerate new discoveries and inventions in nanoscience and nanotechnology.  His group has further demonstrated various sensing platforms and energy devices based on these hybrid nanomaterials.

Professor Chen’s group has invented a room-temperature gas sensor based on carbon nanotube-tin oxide nanocrystals.  The gas sensor shows a high sensitivity with the possibility of tuning selectivity by doping tin oxide nanocrystals with carefully-selected elements.  His group also has invented a water and bio-sensing platform based on graphene-gold nanoparticles with the sensor selectivity achieved by wise selection of probes attaching to gold nanoparticles.  The platform technology has been shown to be versatile in detecting a wide range of analytes in water or other liquid media, such as various heavy metal ions (lead, mercury, arsenic), phosphates/nitrates, E. coli bacteria, and Ebola virus.  In the energy area, his group has invented several anode materials for lithium-ion batteries with significantly enhanced performance (e.g., capacity and cycle lifetime), and high-performance electrocatalysts for counter electrodes in dye-sensitized solar cells and cathodes in oxygen reduction reactions.  For instance, his group has invented a novel 3D multilayered Si/graphene nanohybrid anode with outstanding lithium storage performance, such as a high reversible specific capacity, excellent rate capability (up to 10 C), and superior capacity retention during cycling.

Professor Chen’s research program at UWM has attracted $12 M in research funding from the U.S. NSF (19 grants as the PI and 5 grants as a Co-PI), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), various industries (e.g., MMSD, Huawei Corporation, We Energies, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls, Sigma-Aldrich, Xerox Corporation), the State of Wisconsin, and internal sources.  He has initiated research collaborations with engineers, physicists, chemists, and biologists from the UWM and around the world (e.g., North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia).  His research has led to 7 issued patents, 8 pending patents, 13 licensing agreements, 5 invention disclosures, and 250 papers in prestigious journals, including Nature Communications, Advanced Materials, Nano Letters, Advanced Energy Materials, ACS Nano, Energy & Environmental Science, Nano Letters, and Chemical Society Reviews.  One of his papers was featured on the front cover and three other papers were featured as a frontispiece by Advanced Materials, one paper was featured on the back cover and the other paper was featured as a frontispiece of Small, one paper was featured as a frontispiece by Advanced Functional Materials, and one paper was featured as the cover of Nano. His papers have been cited for over 12,000 times with an h-index of 64 and annual citation over 2,600 times in 2017 and 2018 (ISI Web of Knowledge), including 24 highly cited papers and 32 papers cited for over 100 times (ISI Web of Knowledge).  Google Scholar search shows more citations and a higher h-index.  Professor Chen is listed as a 2017 and 2018 highly cited researcher (top 1%) in materials science (Clarivate Analytics).

Professor Chen’s research and innovation excellence was recognized by the election to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in 2016, the 2016 International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) Medal, the UWM Distinguished Professorship (2015), 2015 Inaugural Regent Scholar of UW System, the 2014 UWM Research Foundation Senior Faculty Research Award, an elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 2013, an Excellence in Engineering Faculty Fellow in Nanotechnology at the UWM in 2013, the 2008 Graduate School/UWM Foundation Research Award, and the 2012 UWM College of Engineering & Applied Science (CEAS) Research Excellence Award.  His research has also been featured several times on the UWM front page and widely reported by NSF Science Nation, Chemical & Engineering News , ASEE magazine PRISM , US News , Frost & Sullivan , Science Daily , PhysOrg , Photonics Online , Nanowerk , Bio-Medicine , EurekAlert , Nanotechnology Now , and the A to Z of Nanotechnology. He has been invited by Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Chemistry World to comment on a sensor paper published in Nature Chemistry.  He has also been interviewed by Scientific American on ozone production from magician and stunt artist David Blaine’s performance of standing atop a pillar in the West Village for three days while being subjected to constant high voltage electricity.  His recent research on real-time water sensors has attracted significant attention from federal governments to major corporations, and has been featured by the NSF Science Nation and the AIChE CEP Magazine.

Professor Chen is currently the Specialty Chief Editor of Nanoenergy Technologies and Materials Section of Frontiers in Energy Research, and an Editorial Board Member of Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group) and Open Journal of Applied Biosensor. He served as an Editorial Board Member of Dataset Papers in Materials Science from 2012 to 2014 and The Open Plasma Physics Journal from 2008 to 2010. He also serves on the ASME Nanoengineering for Energy and Sustainability (NEES) steering committee.  He is a frequent reviewer for over 100 international journals, including Nature Communications, Nano Letters, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., Advanced Materials, Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), ACS Nano, Energy & Environmental Science, Chemical Society Reviews, and Applied Physics Letter. He has been invited to write Perspective and Review Articles for several journals (e.g., Chem. Soc. Rev., JPCL, JMCA, Nanoscale, ABC, and Electroanalysis).  He has also been invited to review proposals for funding agencies worldwide, including the United States (e.g., NSF, DOE, USDA, NIEHS, and Army Research Office), European Union (ESF), Germany (DFG), United Kingdom (The Royal Society), Canada, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Korea, and Singapore.  Professor Chen has been invited to give talks (over 110 times) at various universities worldwide, industries, and technical conferences, with the most recent ones at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting 2017, the ACS National Meeting (2017), the ECS National Meeting (2017), the AVS National Meeting (2017), MRS Spring Meeting 2018, the Telluride Science Research Conference (TSRC) on Molecular Engineering of Water (2018), and the Welch Foundation Conference on Water Science and Technology (2018).  He served on the organizing committee for the 2017 NSF I/UCRC National Meeting, and has organized and co-organized a number of symposia on “Nanomaterials for Energy and Environmental Applications” at the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition and the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR) Annual Conference (sponsored by NSF).

Professor Chen has taught several undergraduate and graduate courses on nanotechnology, nanomaterials, nanodevices, nanomanufacturing, and experimentation. He has developed three new nanotechnology courses (one graduate and two undergraduate/graduate), one of which was funded by the NSF Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) program. He has mentored 50 graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scholars. He also has mentored over 50 undergraduate researchers from UWM and other universities/colleges (e.g., MIT, Cornell University, Yale University, University of California-San Diego, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Southern California, Rice University, Oregon State University, Alverno College, and Beloit College) and 12 high school students. Notably, eight of his former Ph.D. students or postdocs are now faculty members at Universities in the US or China.  One of his Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) students, Ben Hansen, received the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue his graduate studies after the REU experience. Four high school students have received awards for their science projects mentored by Professor Chen.

Professor Chen currently serves as the Director of the NSF-funded Water Equipment and Policy (WEP) I/UCRC, which brings together eighteen industrial/government members with an annual membership fee nearly $1,000,000 to fund pre-competitive research ideas in four thrust areas: materials, sensors and devices, systems, and policy. The WEP research center serves as a catalyst for synergizing the region’s assets to create the next generation of products and processes to advance the water industry. Under Professor Chen’s leadership, WEP membership has tripled, growing from 5 to 18 members, and WEP has generated over $9 million to fund its research. WEP is well on its way to fulfilling its mission of becoming the recognized leader producing new, breakthrough water technologies in the marketplace, as well as information for policy makers to improve global water quality and economy. Because of his successful leadership in the WEP and his leading role in developing real-time water sensors, Prof. Chen was among less than 200 invitees to attend the first-ever White House Water Summit in March 2016.

Professor Chen served as the Chair of the ME Graduate Program Committee, in addition to serving on a number of committees across the campus (e.g., Natural Science Divisional Executive Committee, Awards and Recognition Committee, Johnson Controls Endowed Professorship Search and Screen Committee (Chair), CEAS Water and Environmental Cluster hiring Search and Screen Committee (Chair), UWM Vice Provost for Research Search and Screen Committee, CEAS Senior Associate Dean Search and Screen Committee (Chair)). He also served on the Dean’s Search & Screen Committee that landed the current UWM CEAS Dean.

Professor Chen is the founder of NanoAffix Science, LLC (NAFX,, which is a limited liability company organized in the State of Wisconsin. The NAFX’s corporate mission is to successfully commercialize nanotechnologies invented in Professor Chen’s research lab at UWM to produce sensor products with significant technical performance advantages, improved economic benefits, enhanced customer well-being, and general public safety improvements for our society. NAFX has received research grants from the National Science Foundation small business innovation research (SBIR) program, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) small business technology transfer (STTR) program, the State of Wisconsin Department of Commerce, and the UW-Extension Ideadvance Grant program for its prototype product development work and customer discovery.  NAFX has also received equity investments from A. O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter, and Baker Manufacturing.  NAFX is a recipient of the 2016 Wisconsin Innovation Award.  NAFX is scheduled to introduce its first commercial product of handheld device for real-time lead ion detection in drinking water in the near future.