Welcome to the Sustainable Materials and Energy Laboratory (SMEL)! 

How innovators at University of California San Diego energize the planet’s low-carbon future.

YouTube Video

    We are a materials and chemical engineering research group in the Department of NanoEngineering at University of California, San Diego. Our research focuses on using chemistry and chemical engineering principles to design, synthesize and utilize novel functional polymers
nanostructured materials, and their hybrid materials for the benefit of our society. We are particularly interested in solving problems related to electrochemical energy storage and conversion, clean water and sustainable environment. We value both fundamental research and real applications. 

    We are always looking for motivated undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral candidates to join our team. We are also willing to enhance the diversity of the science and engineering community. Women, minority and other under-represented students are encouraged to contact Prof. Chen (zhengchen@eng.ucsd.edu) for possible opportunities in the group. We may not have positions immediately but will be in contact shortly once we have an opening.

Selected Publications:
1. Darren Huan Shen Tan, Abhik Banerjee, Zheng Chen* and Ying Shirley Meng*, From Nanoscale Interface Characterization to Sustainable Energy Storage Using All-Solid-State BatteriesNature Nanotechnology, 2020, 15, 170-180.

2. Qiaowan Chang, 
  • Pu Zhang, 
  • Amir Hassan Bagherzadeh Mostaghimi, 
  • Xueru Zhao, 
  • Steven R. Denny, 
  • Ji Hoon Lee, 
  • Hongpeng Gao, 
  • Ying Zhang, 
  • Huolin L. Xin*, 
  • Samira Siahrostami*, 
  • Jingguang G. Chen* and 
  • Zheng Chen*,
    Promoting H2O2 Production via 2-Electron Oxygen Reduction by Coordinating Partially Oxidized Pd with Defect CarbonNature Communication, 2020112178.

    3. Zheng Chenet al, Yi Cui* and Zhenan Bao*Fast and Reversible Thermo-Responsive Polymer Switching for Safer BatteriesNature Energy, 2016, 1: 15009.

    4. John Holoubek, Yijie Yin, Mingqian Li, Mingyu Yu, Ying Shirley Meng, Ping Liu*, and Zheng Chen*, Exploiting Mechanistic Solvation Kinetics for Dual-GraphiteBatteries with High Power Output at Extremely Low TemperatureAngewandte Chemie International Edition, 2019, 58(52), 18892-18897. 

    7.   Zheng Chenet al, Yi Cui*, Zhenan Bao*, High-Areal-Capacity Silicon Electrodes with Low-Cost Silicon Particles Based on Spatial Control of Self-Healing BinderAdvanced Energy Materials2015, 5: 1401826.

    8. Zheng Chenet al, Yi Cui* and Zhenan Bao*, A Three-Dimensionally Interconnected Carbon Nanotube-Conducting Polymer Hydrogel Network for High-Performance Flexible Battery Electrodes, 2014, Advanced Energy Materials, 2014, 4: 1400207.

    10.  Zheng Chenet al, Fosong Wang* and Yunfeng Lu*, 3D Nanocomposite Architectures from Carbon-Nanotube-Threaded Nanocrystals for High-Performance Electrochemical Energy StorageAdvanced Materials, 2014, 26, 339-345.
    Recent news:
    Aug 19, 2020: Our battery recycling video is online now!
    June 5, 2020: Congratulations to Qiaowan for the award of the Marye Anne Fox Endowed Fellowship, the only graduate awardee for this year.

    April 30, 2020: SMEL and SPEC center is featured in South China Morning Post article

    April 24, 2020: Dongdong's paper been accepted by Nano Energy, congratulations to Dongdong and all the collaborators! 

    April 8, 2020: Jack and Mingyu's paper has been accepted by ACS Energy Letters, congratulations to Jack and all the collaborators! 

    April 6, 2020: Jack has been selected to receive the 2020 NASA graduate fellowship (NSTRF), congratulations to Jack, well deserved award! 

    Mar 28, 2020: Qiaowan's paper has been formally accepted by Nature Communications, congratulations to Qiaowan and all the collaborators!

    Mar 10, 2020: Our perspective paper with Prof. Shirley Meng on the sustainable development of solid-state batteries has been published in Nature Nanotechnology, congratulations to Darren and all the authors!

    Feb 24, 2020: Mingqian's paper on sub-micron nanospiky Ni particles for ultra-thin, flexible and thermoresponsive nanocomposites for battery safety regulation has been published in Advanced Functional Materials, congratulations and well done!

    Feb 7, 2020: Xu's paper on low-cost synthesis of stablized Fe nanoparticles for Ni-Fe batteries has been published in Nano Letters, congratulations and well done!

    Jan 19, 2020: Chen group went to Potato Chip Rock for hiking, and then had a great dinner and some fun time!

    June 6, 2019: Dongdong's paper on high-volumetric density LTO anode has been published in Energy Storage Materials, congratulations and well done!

    May 21-22, 2019: Panpan and Chen went to Oak Ridge National Lab for a project meeting with the entire ReCell team. Thanks to ORNL folks for the kind host and we look forward to the next meeting.

    May 18, 2019: Brandon and Chen attended UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference. Bradon delivered a wonderful talk on battery recycling, well done! Chen also modorated a session focusing on materials science and engineering topics.

    April 8, 2019: Yang's paper on Eutectic Salt-based direct cathode recycling has been published by Advanced Energy Materialscongratulations and well done! We got some attention.

    Mar 29-31, 2019: Chen attended the 13th China-US Electric Vehicle and Battery Technology Information Exchange workshop in Shaoxing, Zhejiang. Nice city and very informative workshop!

    Mar 26-28, 2019: Chen attended 2019 International Battery Seminar in Fort Lauderdale, FL and delivered an invited talk in direct battery recycling.  Nice to meet old friends and make new friendship!

    Feb 15, 2019: Chen lab represents UC San Diego to be Part of DOE's First Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling R&D Centercalled the ReCell Center, which will help the United States grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

    Dec. 16-17, 2018: Chen visited Huazhong Univ. of Sci and Tech. Thanks to Yongming for the kind host.
    Nov 1-2, 2018: Chen visited Argonne National Lab for the first time and enjoyed the meeting. We look forward to future collaboration.

    Oct 29, 2018: Our proposal on carbon-based electrocatalysts is selected from ACS-PRF for a DNI grant. Thanks to ACS for the generous support to allow us to explore new research directions.

    Oct 4, 2018: Carolina Martinez and Angela Mendez's ENLACE project on thermal responsive polymer composites for battery safety was highlighted in UCSD News!

    Sep 10-15, 2018: Chen visited Tongji U., Zhejiang U., Shanghai Normal U. and Shanghai Jiaotong U. and gave a series of talks. Thanks to all the colleagues and friends for their kind host.

    Sep 6-8, 2018: Chen visited LG Chem R&D Campus in Daejeon, Korean and gave a talk in the Battery Research Team

    Sep 6, 2018: Chen gave a talk in China International Battery Recycling 2018.

    Aug 9, 2018: i) Prof. Yongsheng Chen from Nankai University visited Chen lab and gave a seminar at NE department!  ii) Prof. Tae Hee Han from Hanyang University joined Chen lab as a visiting scholar, we look forward to starting our collaboration! iii) Angela and Carolina finished their last experiment and are ready to present their work at the ENLACE Closing Ceremony and Symposium.

    Aug 7, 2018: Chen gave a talk at UCSD Osher Lifelong Learning Institute regarding urban mining and battery re-manufacturing. Thanks for the invitation!

    Aug 3, 2018: Chen is selected as one of the 11 university-led proposals to win a NASA Early Career Faculty for Space Technology Research Grant. Congratulations and thanks to the whole group for the hard work!

    Aug 2, 2018:  Carolina Martinez and Angela Mendez's ENLACE project was mentioned in KPBS! Check for more details.

    July 30, 2018: Our review paper on the "Function-Driven Design of Stimuli-Responsive Polymer" Composites has been accepted by the Journal of Materials Chemistry C in the 2018 Emerging Investigators issue.

    July 9-13, 2018: Chen attended the Telluride Science and Research Center workshop: Molecular Chemistry in Electrochemical Energy Storage. Thanks Tianbiao, Guihua and Vankat for organizing and invitation. It's great to meet friends in the great place!

    July 12, 2018: Fei's paper has been accepted by ACS AMIcongratulations and well done!

    June 28, 2018: Chen lab is funded by NSF to study battery degradation and direct regeneration. Thanks everyone for the hard work!

    June 14, 2018: Chen lab said goodbye to Shengli, Jie, Khyati and Ning. We wish them a bright future and more success!

    June 4, 2018: Yang's paper has been accepted by ACS Energy Lettercongratulations and well done!

    June 4, 2018: Yang, Hanmei and Shengli's Chem. Mater. is one of the top downloads for the past 30 days.

    May 22, 2018: Jie defended her work, congratulations!

    May 17, 2018:  Yang and Chen attended and showcase the battery regeneration work at UCSD's UP (Understanding and Protecting our planet) Summit!

    April 27, 2018:  Yang, Hanmei and Shengli's paper on NDI molecules for high rate and stable organic electrodes has been accepted by Chem. Mater., congratulations and well done!

    April 23-25, 2018:  Chen attended the 18th AICHE Spring meeting and organized "Renewable Energy, Bioenergy, and Energy Storage" on 8th World Congress on Particle Technology. Thanks for all the speakers and attendees to make this session a great success!

    April 22, 2018:  Chen visited the NanoScience Technology Center at University of Central Florida and gave an invited talk. Thanks Dr. Yang for invitation and host!

    April 15, 2018: Congratulations on Chen Lab to become UC San Diego Green Labs Certified: Silver,
    Well done Chen group! 

    April 10-11, 2018: Chen attended 13th US-China EVBT Workshop at our beautiful Scripps Seaside Forum. It was a great opportunity for learning cutting-edge science and for meeting leading scientists in the EV battery field!

    April 2-6, 2018:  Chen, Hongmei (NMSU), Hyunwook (UNIST) and Wolfgang (UNI-Giessen) together organized a successful symposium in 2018 Spring conference, our topic on "Safe and Long-life Electrochemical Energy Storage" attracted much attention! Thanks to all the speakers, attendants and sponsors to make such a success!

    Mar 12, 2018:  Chen gave an invited talk at 2018 TMS conference about Urban mining for sustainable energy and materials. Thanks to session chairs Guihua and Leo for the invitation!

    Mar 2, 2018:  Chen gave a seminar at UC Riverside. Thanks the department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering for the invitation!

    Feb 2, 2018: Our battery regeneration work got some media attention, check some news: UCSD News, Scientific AmericanIEEE Spectrum, Phys orgSciencedaily, New electronics, Zeroviral.com, EENews, Nanowerk, Green Car Congress, Newswise, Sciencenewsline, PC  Watch, Follownews, Charged EVs and more.

    Dec. 20, 2017: Our first paper is accepted by Green Chemistry, Congratulations to Yang!

    Dec. 16, 2017: The group celebrated the end of 2017 fall quarter, thanks everyone for the hard work during the past months!

    Nov. 6, 2017:  Chen is listed one of the winners of the 1st LG Chem Battery Innovation Contest.  We keep working hard in both fundamental and practical ways to address challenges in next-generation energy storage.

    Nov. 3, 2017: Chen is named a Scialog Fellow in Advanced Energy Storage by Research Corporation for Science Advancement. 
    Sep. 28, 2017: Chen group welcomes new graduate students Darren and Qiaowan and visiting graduate students Kun, Ying and Dongdong to join the group!

    Sep. 20, 2017:  Chen's Li-S work with pyridine-functionalized  polymer was published in ACS Energy Letters (check the paper ). 

    Sep. 8, 2017:   Huanqin completed his summer research and returned back to Peking Univ. Wish him a successful career!

    Aug. 15, 2017: Chen won a Samsung GRO project for development of high-energy and safe Li-ion batteries. We keep working hard in both fundamental and practical ways to address challenges in next-generation energy storage.

    Aug. 9, 2017: Our Thinky mixer is up and running, slurry preparation gets more efficient!

    July 18, 2017: UCSD SPEC center hosted an annual summit! We welcomed many academic and industrial friends, partners, and colleagues. We discussed opportunities and challenges for future sustainable energy generation, storage, and conversion. We also show-cased our newly established pouch-cell fabrication/testing line. An exciting day! Thanks to all faculty, staff, and students who made it so successful
    July 17, 2017: Dr. Mei Cai, Technical Fellow and Group Leader of Energy Storage Materials group at GM Warren R&D center visited NE and gave a seminar on advanced battery materials. Thanks for sharing us ideas from an Auto-company's perspective.
    July 6, 2017: Welcome visiting Professor Ning Wang from Hebei Normal University and undergraduate Huanqin Guan from Peking University to join the group!

    June 29, 2017: Yang's first paper from the group has been submitted, keep fingers crossed..

    June 26, 2017: Chen group welcomes ENLACE students Fabian Lopez Gonzalez (from Colegio La Paz) and Darien Octavio Moreno Medina (from Preparatoria Xochicalco) to start their scientific exploration!  (see more here about the ENLACE bi-national summer research program).