Xi Chen is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University. He is the Director of the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of the Earth Institute, and the Director of the Center for Advanced Materials for Energy and Environment (CAMEE) in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Columbia University.
He received his B.S. in Engineering Mechanics from Special Class for Gifted Youth of Xi’an Jiaotong University in 1994 (at the age of 18), followed by M.S. in Engineering Mechanics from Tsinghua University in 1997. He received his Ph.D. in Solid Mechanics from Harvard University in 2001 (advisor: Professor John W. Hutchinson) and received his postdoc training at Harvard University from 2001-2003. He joined Columbia University in 2003 and was promoted through the ranks.
He received numerous awards including the NSF CAREER Award (2007), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE, 2008), ASME Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award (2010), Society of Engineering Science Young Investigator Medal (2011), and ASME Thomas J. R. Hughes Young Investigator Award (2012). He is a Fellow of ASME and chaired its Materials Division in 2017. He has published over 350 journal papers with a h-index over 55.
He uses multiscale theoretical, experimental, and numerical approaches to investigate various research frontiers in engineering science addressing real-world challenges in energy, environment, nanotechnology and biology. His wide research interests span from energy (novel energy conversion materials, large-scale energy storage systems, flexible and structural battery, material genomics for energy applications) to environment (negative carbon emission, carbon dioxide utilization, nanomaterials for water and soil treatment, green mining) and to biotechnology (soft materials, biomimic soft robotics, mechanobiology, morphogenesis).
Based on a series of counterintuitive reversible chemical reactions, he and his colleagues developed disruptive moisture-swing absorbents for direct air capture of carbon dioxide with very low energy and material cost, and further integrated with various downstream carbon dioxide utilization/conversion processes. He pioneered nanofluidic energy conversion and, based on the ultra-large surface area between nanoporous materials and functional liquids, he developed affordable material systems that can convert among electrical, thermal and mechanical energies with high efficiency. He and his colleagues invented the world’s first scalable and low cost flexible lithium-ion batteries with high energy and power density, as well as a number of flexible materials for electrodes and supercapacitors with excellent performance. Using simple mechanics theories, he pioneered the study of morphogenesis of various fruits, vegetables, animals, tissues, and cells, and further implemented into stress engineering of 3D self-assembly, as well as proposed innovative locomotion modes of soft robots. He has extensively studied material genomics and predicted a large number of novel functional materials, and established nanomechanics frameworks and reliable characterization methods of numerous energy and nanomaterials. His new adventures including green mining, water harvesting, desalination, and other critical science and technologies addressing grand challenges.