Professor, Chemical Engineering; Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy

Research interests: Advanced nanostructured materials and electrodes for fuel cells, metal-air batteries, lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries and various next-generation batteries.


Professor Zhongwei Chen is Canada Research Chair (CRC-Tier 1) Professor in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy at the University of Waterloo, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, Director of Waterloo Centre for Electrochemical Energy and Vice President of International Academy of Electrochemical Energy Science (IAOEES) and associated editor for ACS Applied Material & Interface. His research interests are in the development of advanced nanostructured materials and electrodes for fuel cells, metal-air batteries, lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries and various next-generation batteries. He has published 3 book, 9 book chapters and more than 280 peer reviewed journal articles with over 20,000 citations with a H-index of 80 (Google Scholar). He is also listed as inventor over 30 US/international patents, with several licensed to companies internationally.  His research activities are currently supported by a large and highly integrated team, comprising over 30 research associate/postdoctoral fellows and 30 graduate students. In addition, Dr. Chen has already trained more than 80 others through his research program, totaling over 100 highly qualified personnel in all. He was the recipient of the 2016 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship and elected as the member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in 2016, and was also elected as the fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2017, the Rutherford memorial medal from The Royal Society of Canada in 2017, which followed shortly upon several other prestigious honors, including the Ontario Early Researcher Award, an NSERC Discovery Supplement Award, the Distinguished Performance and Research Award. In 2018 and 2019, Dr. Chen was ranked as the Global Highly Cited Researchers by Clarivate Analytics. He was elected as Fellow of Royal Society of Canada in 2019.

Chen has developed advanced nanomaterials with various unique functionalities and properties for fuel cells, batteries and sensors application:

  1. 1-D nanostructures including Carbon nanotubes, Platinum nanotubes and nanowires, and Conductive polymer nanowires and nanotubes;
  2. 2-D nanomaterials like Graphene and Metal oxide nanosheets and
  3. 3-D nanomaterias such as nanoporous carbon/metal oxides particles and membranes and zeolite materials.

Chen was the first to propose, study, and demonstrate that:

  1. supportless platinum nanotubes can improve durability, activity, catalyst utilization, thus reducing the use of platinum and the cost of fuel cells,
  2. in-situ functionalized graphene oxides based nanocomposite membranes to improve fuel cell operating conditions and performance,
  3. Nano-engineered core-corona bifunctional catalysts for rechargeable zinc-air batteries,

Recently he developed a new class of non-precious metal catalysts that could eliminate the need for precious metals (platinum, palladium, gold, silver, etc.), thus reducing the cost of fuel cells dramatically. Most notably, his team and the General Motors Global Research and Development Center have developed a novel, economical flash heat treatment (FHT) for fabricated silicon-based Li-ion electrodes to boost the performance and cycle capability of Li-ion batteries. The emphasis of a simplified process represents a promising avenue for the production of industrially viable high-performance Si-based electrodes, which could be extended for roll-to-roll manufacturing of next-generation Li-Ion batteries.

Recently, Chen’s team collaborate with Argonne National Laboratories (ANL) to develop a strategy of utilizing anthraquinone, a natural abundant organic molecule, to suppress dissolution and diffusion of polysulfides species through redox reactions for prolong the cycle life of Li-S battery.  In 2019, through the same collaboration with ANL, another new technique to utilize the normally electrochemically inactive commercial Li2S by simply adding a small portion of a carefully selected material into the battery composition. With this technology, the high utilization of commercial Li2S with little modification to the manufacturing process is realized, opening doors towards high-performance sulfur-based battery systems.


  • PhD, University of California – Riverside
  • MSChE, East China University of Science and Technology, China
  • BS, Nanjing University of Technology, China

Zhongwei Chen

    University of Waterloo