Xi Chen


905E S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4701

Tel(212) 854-3787
Fax(212) 854-7081

Xi Chen uses multiscale theoretical, experimental, and numerical approaches to investigate various research frontiers in materials and mechanics addressing challenges in energy and environment, nanomechanics, and mechanobiology.

Research Interests

Carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and storage; energy storage; energy conversion; multi-scale simulation; soft materials and robotics;, morphogenesis; mechanobiology; nanomaterials; nanomechanics.

His wide research interests span from energy (novel energy conversion materials, large-scale energy storage systems, genomics of energy materials, fuel cells and electric car 2.0) to environment (negative carbon emission, carbon dioxide utilization, nanomaterials for water treatment and agriculture revolution) to bioengineering (morphogenesis, bio-inspired self-assembly process, soft robotics, cellular and molecular biomechanics) to nanotechnology (nanoindentation, nanomechanics and low-dimensional materials).

Chen 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 elaborated the mechanism of a series of counterintuitive reversible chemical reactions and developed several moisture-swing absorbents for capturing carbon dioxide from ambient air with very low energy and material cost. 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 also extensively studied material genomics and established nanomechanics frameworks and reliable characterization methods of numerous energy and nanomaterials.

Chen received his BS in engineering mechanics from Xi'an Jiaotong University in 1994 (at the age of 18), and a PhD in solid mechanics  from Harvard University in 2001. He has published over 300 journal papers and has a h-index well above 40. He received the NSF CAREER Award in 2007, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2008, ASME Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award in 2010, SES Young Investigator Medal in 2011, ASME Thomas J. R. Hughes Young Investigator Award in 2012, and a number of international recognitions from Japan, Korea and China. He is a Fellow of ASME. He joined the faculty of Columbia Engineering in 2003. Prior to Columbia, he did postdoctoral research at Harvard University. 


  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard University, 2001-2003


  • Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia Engineering, 2017-
  • Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia Engineering, 2009-2017
  • Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia Engineering, 2007-2009 
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia Engineering, 2003-2006


  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • American Academy of Mechanics (AAM)
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS)


  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 2014
  • 1000 Talents Program (National Honorary Visiting Professor), China, 2014
  • Thomas J.R. Hughes Young Investigator Award, Applied Mechanics Division, ASME, 2012
  • Participant of Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, US National Academy of Engineering, 2012
  • Distinguished Collaborator Fellowship, Murdoch University, Australia, 2012
  • JSPS Fellowship, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan, 2012
  • Young Investigator Medal, Society of Engineering Science (SES), 2011
  • Best Outstanding Achievement Award (for international collaboration), Hanyang University, Korea, 2011
  • Sia-Nemat Nasser (SNN) Early Career Award, Materials Division, ASME, 2010 
  • Chang Jiang Visiting Scholar Award, Chinese Ministry of Education, China, 2010
  • Outstanding Oversea Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation of China, 2009
  • World Class University Visiting Scholar Award, National Research Foundation of Korea, 2009
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), 2008
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2007


  • Yunteng Cao^, Yilun Liu^, Youlong Chen^, Liangliang Zhu^, Yuan Yan^, Xi Chen*, A novel slithering locomotion mechanism for a snake-like soft robot, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 2017, 99: 304-320.
  • Xiaoyang Shi^, Hang Xiao^, Klaus S. Lackner, Xi Chen*, Capture CO2 from Ambient Air Using Nanoconfined Ion Hydration. Angewandte Chemie, 2016, 55: 4026-4029. 
  • Xi Chen*, Baoxing Xu^ and Ling Liu^, Nanoscale Fluid Mechanics and Energy Conversion. Applied Mechanics Review, invited review paper, 2014, 66: 050803.
  • Baoxing Xu^ and Xi Chen*, Electrical-driven Transport of Endohedral Fullerene Encapsulating a Single Water Molecule. Physical Review Letters, 2013, 110: 156103.
  • Baoxing Xu^, Yu Qiao, Moonho Tak, Taehyo Park, Qulan Zhou^ and Xi Chen*, A Conceptual Thermal Actuation System Driven by Interface Tension of Nanofluids. Energy and Environmental Science, 2011, 4: 3632-3639.
  • Xi Chen* and Jie Yin^, Buckling Patterns of Thin Films on Curved Compliant Substrates with Applications to Morphogenesis and Three-Dimensional Micro-Fabrication. Soft Matter, invited review paper, 2010, 6: 5667 - 5680.
  • Ling Liu^, Xi Chen, Aijie Han, and Yu Qiao, Infiltration of Electrolytes into Molecular-Sized Nanopores, Physical Review Letters, 2009, 102: 184501.
  • Jie Yin^, Chaorong Li, Zexian Cao, Izhak Sheinman and Xi Chen*, Stress-Driven Buckling Patterns in Spheroidal Core/Shell Structures, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences USA, 2008, 105: 19132-19135.
  • Xi Chen*, Qiang Cui, Yuye Tang^, Jejoong Yoo and Arun Yethiraj, Gating mechanisms of the mechanosensitive channels of large conductance, Part I: A Continuum Mechanics-Based Hierarchical Framework (Cover Article), Biophysical Journal, 2008, 95: 563-580.
  • Xi Chen*, Nagahisa Ogasawara^, Manhong Zhao^ and Norimasa Chiba, On the Uniqueness of Measuring Elastoplastic Properties from Indentation: the Indistinguishable Mystical Materials, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 2007, 55: 1618-1660.