Advanced Materials Research Group

Image of George Zheng Chen

George Zheng Chen

Professor of Electrochemical Technologies, Faculty of Engineering



George Chen (CChem, FRSC, FRSA, FIMMM) received his Teaching Diploma in 1981 (Chemistry, Jiujiang Teacher Training College, now Jiujiang University), MSc in 1985 (Physical Chemistry/Electrochemistry, Fujian Normal University), and PhD (University of London) and DIC (Physical Chemistry/Electrochemistry, Diploma of Imperial College) in 1992. After postdoctoral research in the Universities of Oxford (1992) and Leeds (1994), he moved to the University of Cambridge (1996), taking up positions of Senior Research Associate (1998), and Assistant Director of Research (2001). In Cambridge, he was awarded the Schlumberger Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship (2000) and elected to Official Fellow (2003) of Darwin College. He joined the University of Nottingham as Reader in 2003, and was promoted to Associate Professor and Reader in 2006, and to Professor in 2009. He was lecturer of Jiangxi University (1985-1988, now Nanchang University), and also specially invited professor of the University of Mediterranee (2007), Wuhan University (2000-2010), and Wuhan University of Science and Technology (2015-2019), senior academic visitor of Fudan University (2014-2016), and guest professor of Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), Chinese Academy Sciences (CAS) (2015-2019).

Between Nov 2014 and Sept 2019, Prof. Chen undertook full time academic duties (secondment) in the University's China Campus in Ningbo (official name: University of Nottingham Ningbo China, UNNC). He was also appointed Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technology (CSET, 2015-2017), Head of Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering (2016-2017) and Li Dak Sum Chair Professor (2017-2020, visiting in the final year). He returned to the UK campus in late 2019, and continues collaboration with UNNC colleagues.

Prof. Chen has undertaken various research projects with funds from state and industrial sources, including the EPSRC, Royal Society, MoST (China), MoSTI (Malaysia), E.ON, Ningbo Municipal Government and more recently Innovate UK and Rolls Royce. The relevant research outputs are documented in over 840 publications, including peer reviewed journal articles, conference presentations and patents. The commercial potentials of his research are endorsed by industry (e.g. The FFC Cambridge Process by Metalysis, and Supercapattery by E.ON and Rolls Royce). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the TMS Reactive Metals Technology Award (2001, 2004), the Royal Society Brian Mercer Feasibility Award (2007), the E.ON International Research Award (2008), the Inman Medal (2014), and Specially Invited Expert of Zhejiang Province (2015).

The OCRiD of Prof. Chen is 0000-0002-5589-5767. On 23 May 2024, Web of Science recorded 303 articles from Prof. Chen with 19571 citations and an h-index of 74, His record in Google Scholar includes 442 publications with 25528 citations and an h-index of 82.

George Chen is a member of the Advanced Materials Research group (AMRG) and University of Nottingham Energy Institute (UoNEI).

Expertise Summary

Prof. Chen is specialised in electrochemical technologies, particularly in association with liquid salts (high temperature molten salts and room temperature ionic liquids). His research aims to bring about technology innovations for materials, energy and environment. More specifically, his current work focuses on (a) nano-materials and liquid salts based energy storage devices and processes, including supercapacitor, rechargeable battery, supercapattery (supercapacitor + battery) and redox flow cell (a type of rechargeable fuel cells), (b) production, processing and recycling of structural and functional materials, particularly titanium, silicon and polymer composites (e.g. thermochromic films, electron and/or ion conducting membranes), and (c) liquid salts supported (1) carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) or conversion (CCC), (2) solar heat transfer and storage, and (3) regenerative fuels or regefuels (e.g. nano-powders of Si and Fe) for high density energy storage storage.

For teaching at undergraduate levels, Prof. Chen's interests are related with chemical thermodynamics, structural and functional materials, rheology and process engineering. He also supervises postgraduate students at both master (MSc or MEng), and doctorate (PhD) levels on research topics of, but not limited to, fundamental and materials electrochemistry, electrochemical technologies and engineering, liquid salts based processes and materials, energy conversion and storage, and CO2 capture and reclamation, conversion and utilisation.

Teaching Summary

Prof. Chen is engaged in teaching chemical engineering related subjects at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He has often been appointed as an internal examiner, and also an external… read more

Research Summary

  • Prof. George Chen has established and led the Electrochemical Technologies Group (ETG) in the University of Nottingham since October 2003, undertaking research programmes on the theme of Electrochemical and Liquid Salts Innovation for Materials, Energy and Environment. His ORCID, Web of Science ResearcherID and Scopus Author ID are respectively 0000-0002-5589-5767, A-4577-2009, and 57200595823.
  • Between Nov 2014 and Sept 2019, he undertook academic duties in the University's China Campus, namely the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC). He was also associated with the International Academy of Marine Economy and Technology (IAMET), Energy Engineering Research Group (EERG, before 2018) and Natural Resources and Environment Research Group (NRE) in the UNNC, and the Energy Technology Research Institute (ETRI) and the Advanced Materials Research Group (AMRG) in the UK campus (Nottingham). From July 2017 to September 2020, he was appointed Li Dak Sum Chair Professor of Electrochemical Technologies in the UNNC. Since October 2019, Prof. Chen has returned to Nottingham but is still collaborating with colleagues in the UNNC.

His recent and ongoing research is summarised below.

1. Electrochemical science, engineering and technologies for materials, energy and environment

Clean technologies are the necessity of the 21st century and beyond. Fuel cells, batteries and electrochemical capacitors are clean for the energy consumption of human activities. Electrolysis, electro-synthesis, and electrochemical machining are clean for the production of materials and devices supporting human activities. The efficient use of these clean techniques, however, rely strongly on materials that enable and accommodate the relevant electrochemistry and also on innovations that further improve these techniques.

In the electrochemical technologies group (ETG) led by Prof. Chen in both the UK and China campuses of Nottingham University, methods are being developed for (1) the electrochemical production of engineering and functional materials (metals, ceramics, polymers, nano-materials, supramolecules and composites) and (2) the applications of novel materials in electrochemical devices, including fuel cells, supercapacitors, supercapatteries, rechargeable batteries, sensors, switchable membranes and etc.

In particular, a core topic in Prof. Chen's research is further understanding, improvement and application of the Fray-Farthing-Chen (FFC) Cambridge Process. The electro-extraction of reactive, refractory and rare earths metals (pure or alloyed forms of Si, Ti, Zr, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mo, W, Nd, Sm and etc.) via the FFC Cambridge Process is being investigated in parallel with specialty devices or their components for medical and electrochemical applications. Another core research area is the indirect electro-reduction of carbon dioxide in molten salts to produce fuels and materials with the process design for utilisation of solar energy.

Carbon based advanced materials, such as carbon nanotubes, electrically conducting polymers, and their composites, are another direction of Prof. Chen's research. Currently, composites of carbon nanotubes and functional materials (e.g. polypyrrole, manganese oxide, titanium dioxide) are being researched. In particular, the composites are and will be used to fabricate a new type of energy storage device, supercapattery, that combines the merits of supercapacitor and rechargeable battery. Collaboration with experts of power electronics is ongoing to develop intelligent interfaces between for example the electric power grid and banks of supercapatteries. Prof. Chen is also researching on the preparation of other organic and inorganic materials based nano-composites (or hybrids) and their applications for energy efficiency and environment cleanup. More recent work has succeeded in efficient photo-electro-catalytic degradation of organic pollutants in water and simultaneous removal of heavy metals or production of hydrogen gas.

2. Liquid salts innovations

Liquid salts refer to "liquids of ions or ionic matters" disregarding temperatures, and hence include the traditional high temperature molten salts and the relatively new room temperature ionic liquids. By convention, molten is a state resulting from heating, and liquid is a condensed fluid under ambient conditions. The facts that both are salts in nature and work only in the liquid state have led the academic community to search for a common term for both, but such a term has not yet been universally accepted due to a number of reasons. Prof. Chen prefers the term of liquid salts because both words are well known to the general public.

Prof. Chen's research in ionic liquids (liquid salts at room temperatures) started in mid 2000, and has already made some meaningful progresses. Modulation of composition and structure in the composites of polymer and ionic liquid can lead to thermochromic behaviour in response to temperature variation. In Prof. Chen's recent work in collaboration with Wuhan University, China, these novel composites changed colour in the temperature range (e.g. 30 ~ 80oC) that is readily achievable under direct or indirect sunlight, and hence termed as solar-thermochromic composites. This finding signifies applications in many areas, but particularly the built environment for improved energy efficiency. For example, these materials may be applied in truly smart windows that can, at high summer temperatures, automatically reduce light transmittance through windows and hence the energy consumption for air conditioning and refrigeration.

Prof. Chen has also ongoing investigation on using liquid salts for (1) carbon capture and reclamation (CCR), conversion (CCC) or utilisation (CCU), (2) solar heat transfer and storage, and (3) high voltage supercapacitors.

3. Basic science

Fundamental understanding of new electrochemical processes and devices is a long term research interest of Prof. Chen. In this aspect, his research team has been studying (1) charge transfer at the three-phase interlines (3PIs) which are the main reaction sites in many electrochemical processes involving three or more phases of solids and liquids, (2) ion conduction mechanisms in polymer-nanomaterial composite membranes, (3) reference electrodes for liquid salts applications, particularly at elevated temperatures, and (4) materials based photo-electrochemical, thermo-electrochemical, piezo -electrochemical, and photo-thermochemical phenomena.

Selected Publications

The world is small. 世界很小。

Prof. Chen is engaged in teaching chemical engineering related subjects at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He has often been appointed as an internal examiner, and also an external examiner by other universities in the UK and abroad, for assessment of PhD and MSc theses, and MSc taught courses.

Since returning to Nottingham in October 2019, he has shared lecturing a Yr2 module, Materials and Sustainable Processes (CHEE2047), and a Yr4/MSc module, Advance Rheology & Materials (CHEE4005). He was/is in charge of the Yr2 Practical Laboratories on Wetted Sphere Column (MT1, 2020), Wetted Disc Column (MT2, 2020), Fluidised Bed with Air (FM6, 2021), and Fluidised Bed with Water (FM7, 2021), and Yr1 Practical Laboratories on Heat and Mass balances around a recycle loop (UO26, 2021), Sequentially Controlled Batch Plant (UO27, 2021) and Heating liquids in tanks (HT4, 2021). He has taken over the convenor role of the module CHEE4005 Advanced Rheology and Materials since Autumn 2020. He was also tutor of an MSc group for the module of Accelerated Design Training (CHEE4018), and has been co-supervisor of the Design and Research Projects for MSc (CHEE4-15) and MEng (CHEE4013) courses.

Between 2014 and 2019 in the UNNC, he was convenor of a Yr4 module, Project Management (H83PRM, 2015-2017), a Yr3 module, (Engineering Materials, CHEE2028, 2018-2019) and a Yr2 module (Process Engineering Fundamentals, H81PEF, 2015-2017), and shared lecturing of two other modules, Engineering Materials (H82ENM, 2015-2017) for Yr3 and Industrial Process Assessment (H83IPA, 2015-2017) for Yr4, in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. (UNNC Yr4 = UNUK Yr3, and so on)

Before July 2014, Prof. Chen lectured Engineering Materials (H82ENM) to Yr 2 Chemical and Environmental Engineering students at the UNUK (2003-2014), and was one of the staff members demonstrating Yr 3 Chemical Engineering laboratory (2013-1014). He also taught Process Engineering Fundamentals (H81PEF) to Yr 1 Chemical Engineering students (2005-2009). He was MSc Course Director in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering between July 2009 and July 2014. He supervised over 80 postgraduate projects at both MSc and PhD levels. For postgraduate teaching, he was module convenor and lectured on Energy Storage (H84ENS, MSc/MEng, 2012-2014) and Materials Electrochemistry (PhD).

Prof. Chen has continued his learning of new knowledge and skills from the past till today using different methods and is of the opinion that the most rewarding learning is to answer those unprecedented questions from students.

Past Research

The outcomes from Prof. Chen's past research have been been documented in various publications (840+), including patents (40+), refereed research and review articles in journals and book chapters (300+), invited and contributed presentations at seminars and conferences (410+), plus postgraduate theses (120+). His research publications have been well recognised by international colleagues. The OCRiD of Prof. Chen is 0000-0002-5589-5767. On 22 March 2024, Web of Science recorded 303 articles from Prof. Chen with 19571 citations and an h-index of 74, His record in Google Scholar includes 442 publications with 25528 citations and an h-index of 82.

Future Research

Prof. Chen's future research will continue from his current work on electrochemical science, engineering and technologies for materials, energy and environment, focusing on liquid salts assisted innovations. National and international collaboration will play a key role to progress his research into greater width and depth. For updated information about Prof Chen and his research activities, see

Advanced Materials Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
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