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Home > Press > Assistant professor gives big boost to little technology

Junhong Chen
Junhong Chen

Abstract:
UW-Milwaukee Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Junhong Chen is affixing fame to UWM at a microscopic level.

By Tom Swieciak

Assistant professor gives big boost to little technology

Milwaukee, WI | Posted on April 19th, 2010

Chen recently completed a licensing agreement with the UWM Research Foundation, allowing him to pursue the commercializing of nanotechnology that he developed, with his newly formed NanoAffix LLC.

"We have found new ways of combining nanocomponents to produce valuable technologies which are superior to existing approaches," Chen told UWM News.

According to an article on Chen's technology, he "[presents] an efficient gas-phase route to decorate both single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes with nanoparticles based on electrostatic force directed assembly."

When the Post asked Dr. Chen to elaborate on his discovery, he was able to translate it into layman's terms as best he could.

"We have developed a technique to assemble nanoparticles onto carbon nanotubes (CNTs) based on the electrostatic attraction between the two," Chen said. "The resulting hybrid nanoparticle CNT structure is the key sensing material used for the gas sensor fabrication."

Chen's article outlined the numerous applications of his nanotechnology. "The nanoparticle - nanotube composite structure attracts a broad range of advanced applications, including nanoelectronics, chemical sensors, biosensors, catalysis, fuel cells and hydrogen storage," the article stated. "Current methods for assembly are primarily based on wet-chemical routes."

Chen stated that he has been working on perfecting the technology for the last five years.

"This is an ongoing research," Chen said. "The breakthrough happened in 2008 when we first demonstrated that the gas sensor based on the hybrid nanomaterials could operate at room temperature."

According to the Journal Sentinel, Chen's agreement is the sixth licensing agreement produced by the UWM Research Foundation since its formation in 2006.

"We've been fortunate to work with Dr. Chen for several years to protect intellectual property and foster this research, in part through our Catalyst Grant Program," UWM Research Foundation President Brian Thompson told UWM News. "This technology needs an organization committed to helping it realize its potential, and we believe NanoAffix is the company that can do that."

However, Chen's breakthrough has not slowed him down. If anything, he's tackling bigger and more challenging projects.

"We are currently working on nanotechnology-based solar cells and lithium ion batteries, in addition to the chemical and biological sensors," Chen said.

Chen's article had a very optimistic outlook concerning applications of similar technology in the future.

"One can imagine that nanoparticles of multiple materials, particularly interweaving metal and semiconducting, magnetic nanocrystals, can be assembled onto CNTs," the article stated. "These interesting multi-component structures will open up new opportunities in several interdisciplinary fields."

####

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