Zhongwei Chen

Supercharging the Future

His work could change how power is stored and transported. To recharge himself, he takes a hike with his kids or turns on some Mozart.


Zhongwei Chen is the Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy & Director of Collaborative Graduate Program in Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. We asked him everything from what he is reading to what advice he would give to young researchers in hopes of giving you a better understanding of one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about your work?
The freedom to do the research that I am interested in.

How will your research make a difference in people’s lives?
The advanced materials based next generation batteries and fuel cells will deliver high enough capacity to serve whole factories, towns, or even “mini-grids” connecting isolated rural communities. They avoid the heavy metals and caustic chemicals used in older lead-acid battery chemistries and they are more affordable, more scalable, and safer than the lithium batteries currently used in advanced electronics and electric cars.

What advice would you give to young researchers?
Enjoy every minute of the research and cultivate good ideas.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
The advanced zinc-air flow battery system which could be the most attractive technology for large stationary applications to serve whole factories, towns, or electricity grids.

What do you read?
Bibles, newspapers and research papers.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
Confidence and intelligence.

What’s on your iPod/CD collection/turntable?
Classical Music by Mozart, Saint-Saens’ Havanaise and Beethoven.

If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why? 
James Watt. Because the watt (symbol: W) is a derived unit of power in the International System of Units (SI), named after James Watt.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be? 
Doctor of Medicine to help people in poor health condition.

What do you like to do for fun?
I go hiking and play games with my kids. I spend time with my friends having drinks and appetizers at the local bar and grill.

Do you have a favourite motto/words to live by?
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.