I am Wenxiang Chen, a postdoctoral research associate in Prof. Qian Chen’s group in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, UIUC. Before joining UIUC, I obtained my Ph.D. degree in Prof. Cherie Kagan’s group in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and my bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics at the University of Science and Technology of China.

See my most recent talk at “North American Materials Colloquium Series” representing MatSE, UIUC:


My research focuses on the modulation of charge carrier oscillation and insertion at solid-solid and solid-liquid interfaces for surface plasmon resonance and energy storage technologies. My academic training has prepared me as an effective researcher in electromagnetics and energy technology.

My Ph.D. study (2011-2017, advised by Prof. Cherie R. Kagan) was centered on designing and fabricating plasmonic metamaterials for light manipulation using both colloidal nanoparticles and bulk metals as building blocks. I have developed broad-bandwidth optical waveplates, reconfigurable designer metasurfaces, angle-independent optical moisture sensors, and strong optical absorbers. The work on the ultra-sensitive, mechanically-reconfigurable metasurfaces on microstructured elastomeric substrates has led to the application of a patent.

My postdoctoral research (2017-present, advised by Prof. Qian Chen) focuses on the study of the origin and impacts of chemo-mechanical coupling in energy storage devices. We used λ-MnO2 cathode materials in Mg-ion batteries as our model system as it has strong chemo-mechanical coupling. We successfully mapped the mechanical strain and chemical phase in the cathode materials at the same time at the atomic-to-nanometer length scale based on scanning electron nanodiffraction (known as SEND) in the scanning transmission electron microscope. For the first time, we uncovered the atomic-level straining mechanism that regulates the particle-level chemo-mechanical inhomogeneities and the macroscopic energy storage capacities. We are also applying liquid-phase TEM to characterize cathode materials under operation conditions.

In the future, I plan to converge energy science and plasmonic technology to develop a research program focusing on the emerging interdisciplinary areas: battery design and diagnosis via plasmonic sensing and electrochemically driven active plasmonics and metamaterials. To be specific, the integration of energy science and plasmonic technology will have impacts in three key aspects: (1) scientific understanding: generate fundamental understanding of chemical events and electrochemical inhomogeneity in insertion devices, (2) characterization: provide in situ nanoscopic characterizations of battery chemistry, and (3) device design: inspire the construction of high-performance energy storage devices and reconfigurable optical components. I plan to use metal and oxide nanomaterials with precisely-defined geometry, stoichiometry, and strain as material building blocks. My research will synergistically integrate state-of-the-art in situ nanoscopic imaging with ex situ atomic-level electron microscopy characterization methods at complementary length and time scales. The design and fabrication of functional materials will be enabled by either chemical synthesis, lithographical fabrication, or their combination. I believe the convergence of energy science and plasmonic technology will open up unprecedented opportunities in understanding important scientific questions and achieving breakthroughs in optical and electrochemical technology.

Research Keywords:

Chemomechanical coupling, energy storage materials, plasmonics, optics, atomic to nanoscale characterization.


Address: MRL 474,104 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801

Email: wxchen at illinois dot edu