Argonne hires lead water strategist.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory has hired Junhong Chen to serve as lead water strategist for the laboratory.

Water availability, and the nexus between energy and water, represents one of the biggest challenges faced by humankind this century and beyond. Argonne is working to develop innovative solutions to meet these challenges.

Chen will provide the vision and leadership for growing Argonne’s research in materials and manufacturing for water. He will work with leaders at Argonne and outside Argonne to create new partnerships with industry, DOE, other federal sponsors, foundations, academia, and other stakeholders, all with the goal of amplifying the laboratory’s growing water research program. This is a broad program spanning discovery and applied science and engineering related to water, the former highlighted by the DOE-sponsored Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS) Energy Frontier Research Center, launched in 2018.

“There is lots of great work in water already being done in Chicago. I think my role is to identify and create synergies between these efforts so we can have a greater collective impact on the world.” — Junhong Chen, lead water strategist, Argonne National Laboratory.

“I think Argonne, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and others have what it takes to lead a coalition and make Chicago a major international hub for water research,” Chen said. “It’s important to point out that we are not creating something from scratch here. There is lots of great work in water already being done in Chicago. I think my role is to identify and create synergies between these efforts so we can have a greater collective impact on the world.”

Chen previously served as director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s (UWM’s) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center on Water Equipment and Policy, as well as program director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Engineering Research Centers program.

“We are thrilled to be adding Junhong to the Argonne team,” said Kawtar Hafidi, associate laboratory director of Argonne’s Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate. “Water availability is already a pressing global issue, and its importance will only grow in the coming years. Junhong brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in all the key aspects of the equation, including utilizing new materials discoveries, cutting-edge technology development, and a track record of successful industry engagement. The laboratory is excited to bring him on board and help us deliver impact in science-based water innovations for the nation and the world.”

Chen joined the UWM faculty in 2003, and for the last several years, he has been a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science/Engineering as well as an Excellence in Engineering Faculty Fellow in Nanotechnology at UWM.

In part stemming from Chen’s efforts, Milwaukee is an emerging hotbed for water research, so he brings the knowledge and connections he gained in his time there to Argonne.

“Proximity to the Great Lakes is a significant advantage for cities like Milwaukee and Chicago,” Chen said. “Lots of industries that work with water are in this region. There are a number of manufacturers that need access to high-quality fresh water, and the Great Lakes provide that. There are also several organizations — environmental or otherwise — that have interest in water and are located near the Great Lakes.”

Chen’s most recent research has focused on nanomaterial innovations for sustainable energy generation and a more sustainable environment, with a particular emphasis on novel sensors for detecting pollutants in water. He has published more than 250 journal articles, with over 12,000 citations.

Chen has extensive experience with technology commercialization and building fruitful partnerships with industry. His research has led to seven issued patents, eight pending patents, and 13 licensing agreements. His startup company, NanoAffix, received the 2016 Wisconsin Innovation Award.

“One of the big strengths for Milwaukee has been the industry partnerships we’ve been able to build over the years,” Chen said. “Industry is unique in the sense that they have the experience in bringing technologies to the marketplace. The good news is, we can leverage partnerships that were built in Milwaukee here in Chicago.”

He was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2013 and a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2016. He earned the 2016 International Association of Advanced Materials Medal as well as numerous awards from UWM and the UW system.

“Water research is a key thrust within Argonne’s manufacturing science initiative,” said Suresh Sunderrajan, director of Argonne’s Energy and Global Security directorate. “Dr. Chen’s inputs will help us focus our scientific efforts, expand our industry outreach, and deliver impactful commercial outcomes.”

For information on how to collaborate with Argonne in water research, contact [email protected].

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.