by Nicole Capozziello
Published August 11, 2021
James Chen, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has been selected for the 2021 Rising Star Award by the Electrostatics Society of America (ESA).
The annual ESA Rising Star Award recognizes an individual under age 40 for significant contributions to the field of electrostatics at an early stage of their career. Chen was specifically recognized for his research contributions to dielectrophoresis and friction-induced electrification.
"Since joining the department a few years ago, James has been making outstanding research contributions and is clearly deserving of this award, which brings prominence to himself as well as the university," says Francine Battaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Chen’s research interests include fundamental theories and numerical simulation for different physical problems across multiple spatial and temporal scales, including turbulence, high speed aerodynamics and triboelectricity.
Some of his recent research, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation, concerns understanding and applying energy from the triboelectric effect, the phenomenon in which one material becomes electrically charged after it contacts a different material through fiction.
He has also been funded by Air Force Office of Scientific Research and is part of UB’s recently funded PSAAP-III Center for Hybrid Rocket Exascale Simulation Technology (CHREST), which is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Department of Energy.
Chen’s research has been featured in more than 40 media outlets, including an interview in an Austrian radio show, Digital.Leben, a feature article by Aerospace Testing International, as well as by EurekAlert, TechXplore, New Electronics and many others.
“Our atomistic field theory for tribe- and contact-electrification is a brand new approach that integrates molecular dynamics, statistical mechanics and electrodynamics. It provides an answer to the mystery of how contact electrification happens,” says Chen. “Engineers and scientists can now quantify the amount of the electron transfers from the electrification during the contact, which had only been obtained ad hoc from experiments in the past.”
“Winning the ESA Rising Star Award makes me feel that people recognize our efforts and dedication to this scientific challenge,” he added.
Chen first attended the ESA meeting in 2019 when he was invited to give a keynote speech on his research on triboelectrification. After forming connections at this initial meeting, he accepted the role of technical chair for the 2021 Joint Electrostatics Conference, which brings together members of the electrostatics community from China, Japan, Europe and IEEE.
Chen is also the director of undergraduate studies, aerospace engineering, in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His past honors include the Exceptional Scholar – Young Investigator award from UB, the Outstanding Young Engineer Award from the Wichita Council of Engineering Societies, the Steve Hsu Keystone Research Faculty Scholar (Endowed Scholarship), the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, and the Research Collaboration Fellowship Award from the Penn State Materials Research Institute.
The announcement of this year’s awards was made during ESA’s annual meeting, which was held virtually from June 14-16, 2021. The plaque will be distributed next year at the Joint Conference, which is set to take place in person.
Founded in 1970, the ESA is a nonprofit professional society dedicated to bringing about the advancement and improved understanding of electrostatics.