Jun Chen

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

“Micro-hydropower for Powering Rural African Communities: Opportunities, Challenges, and Lessons”


The Chen team in the Purdue Global Engineering Program has been working with NGOs in Africa to develop the low-cost micro-hydropower system for providing basic electricity need in rural communities. The Purdue faculty and students have made multiple field trips for on-site tests since 2012. The potential of developing off-grid micro-hydropower is significant, in particular, for improving the basic livelihood of rural areas, which are always overlooked. However, challenges exist from the unstable supply chain, the lack of manufacture infrastructure, and the shortage of skilled workers. Developing the micro-hydropower system for rural Africa communities should be evaluated together with technology development, business model, and engineering education. The design and manufacture efforts will be reviewed in this talk, as well as the lessons learned in the past years.


Jun Chen received his B.S. degree and M.S. degree in aerospace engineering from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and did postdoctoral research in Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined Purdue faculty of School of Mechanical Engineering in 2008. Dr. Chen's research interests are in the general area of experimental and applied fluid dynamics, including the development of advanced flow diagnostic techniques, turbulent flow measurements and modeling, wind energy, low-Mach number aeroacoustic, etc.  He also leads a student team in the Purdue Global Engineering Program to develop low-cost energy solutions for rural communities in the developing countries. His team won the 2016 YCOSST P3 AWARD presented by the AIChE Institute for Sustainability and the 2018 ASCE Sustainable Development Award.