ChBE Seminar Series: Junhong Chen, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Speaker: Junhong Chen, Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering @ University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Director of National Science Foundation Water Equipment and Policy I/UCRC
Title: Molecular Engineering of Real-Time Water Sensors Based on 2D Nanomaterials: from Concept to Product
The National Academy of Engineering identified “providing access to clean water” as one of the top ten grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. A central requirement for safe drinking water is the availability of low-cost and real-time water quality monitoring. Current detection methods for critical analytes in water are often too expensive or unsuitable for in-situ and real-time detection (an unmet need). As a result, there is a lack of onsite water quality monitoring along the water distribution line and at the point of use, which is inadequate because of potential deterioration in water quality within water distribution systems (e.g., Flint Water Crisis). This talk will unveil a powerful approach to real-time water sensors through molecular engineering of 2D nanomaterials in a field-effect transistor platform. The working principle of the sensor is that the conductivity of 2D nanomaterial channel (usually measured in resistance) changes upon binding of chemical or biological species to molecular probes anchored on the nanomaterial surface. As such, the presence and the concentration of analytes, such as heavy metals, bacteria, and nutrients, can be determined by measuring the sensor resistance change. The patented technology allows for real-time detection of deadly contaminants with unprecedented sensitivity and selectivity in field settings for single-point testing or in-line continuous flow testing. The sensor signals can be wirelessly transmitted to a central control station so that the health status of the entire water distribution system could be monitored remotely in a real-time fashion. The envisioned smart water distribution system can significantly mitigate risks to ensure a safe water supply. The talk will focus on the molecular engineering aspects of the sensor device (e.g., engineering nanomaterial channel, molecular probe, and device passivation) through both theoretical and experimental approaches. The 2D nanomaterials covered include reduced graphene oxide and black phosphorous. The talk will end with a brief introduction on the translation of the platform technology from concept to prototype product through partnership with industries.
Biosketch: Dr. Chen is currently on leave from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) to serve as a Program Director for the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). He is a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and engineering and Excellence in Engineering Faculty Fellow in Nanotechnology at UWM. He is also the Director of US National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on Water Equipment & Policy and the founder of NanoAffix Science LLC. Dr. Chen received his B.E. degree (in Thermal Engineering) in 1995 from Tongji University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees (both in Mechanical Engineering) in 2000 and 2002, respectively, from University of Minnesota. Prior to joining UWM in 2003, he was a postdoctoral scholar in Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology. He was promoted to Associate Professor and Professor in 2008 and 2011, respectively. His current research focuses on nanomaterial innovation for sustainable energy and environment. Dr. Chen has published 220 journal papers on various nanomaterials, sensors, and energy devices. His papers have been cited for over 10,000 times with an h-index of 56 and annual citation over 2,500 times in 2017, including 23 highly cited papers (ISI Web of Knowledge). Dr. Chen is listed as one of the 2017 highly cited researchers (top 1%) in materials science (Clarivate Analytics). Dr. Chen’s research has led to 6 issued patents, 7 pending patents, and 9 licensing agreements. He is a pioneer in technology commercialization through exemplary industrial partnership and the university start-up company. His excellence in research and innovation was recognized by the 2008 Graduate School/UWM Foundation Research Award, the 2012 UWM College of Engineering & Applied Science Research Excellence Award, the 2014 UWM Research Foundation Senior Faculty Research Award, an elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 2013, the 2015 Inaugural Regent Scholar of UW System, the 2016 International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) Medal, and an elected Fellow of National Academy of Inventors in 2016. His start-up company NanoAffix is a recipient of the 2016 Wisconsin Innovation Award.