Sensors to Address Ebola and Water Crisis

UWM Distinguished Professor Junhong Chen (Mechanical Engineering) is determined to help prevent public health catastrophes like the toxic water consumed in Flint, Mich., and the rapid spread of Ebola that the world witnessed in 2014-2015. Chen 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)

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

“We’re addressing some of society’s largest problems. 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 from the Medical College of Wisconsin — gastroenterologist Lyndon Hernandez and infectious disease specialist Michael Kron — 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.