Milwaukee Engineer’s Technology Could Save Lives

Junhong Chen is determined to help prevent public health catastrophes like the toxic water consumed in Flint, Michigan, and the rapid spread of Ebola that the world witnessed in 2014-2015. Chen, a distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at UW-Milwaukee, used nanomaterials to develop a highly sensitive, low-cost sensor that can be easily modified to detect lead in water, the Ebola virus and other threats to human health. Other potential applications include biosensors to help patients manage acid reflux and obesity. Chen’s ultimate goal: save lives.

Junhong Chen with water sensors that are now manufactured by three Wisconsin companies. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

Junhong Chen with water sensors that are now manufactured by three Wisconsin companies. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

“We’re aiming at some of the largest scale societal problems to address. But once solved, the solutions can have a significant impact on our society,” Chen said.

Chen’s industry partners include A. O. Smith Corp., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of residential and commercial water heaters and purifiers. He’s also collaborating with doctors Lyndon Hernandez and Michael Kron from the Medical College of Wisconsin on the sensor’s biomedical applications. His research has led to 11 patents and patent applications, four of them licensed to his startup company, NanoAffix Science LLC.

Chen’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation through several awards including two recent grants.

See more about Chen’s work by watching this video.