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Drew Higgins

Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering

Achieving a sustainable energy economy is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. The Higgins Lab at McMaster University focuses on addressing this challenge through the design, synthesis and characterization of novel nanomaterial catalysts, and their integration into electrochemical devices, such as fuel cells or electrolyzers. Nanomaterial catalysts and electrochemical devices will be integral parts of a sustainable energy economy, as they will enable the interconversion of electrical and chemical energy. Put simply, they harness renewable sources of electricity (wind, solar, hydro) to produce the fuels and chemicals that society depends upon.

Students in the Higgins group apply catalyst design principles (i.e., an understanding of what makes a catalyst good) to synthesize nanomaterial catalysts designed on the atomic scale to possess desirable structures and properties. The nanomaterial catalysts are then tested for electrochemical activity towards small molecule conversions, focusing on the use of environmentally abundant molecules as reactants (i.e., O2, N2, H2O, CH4) to produce fuels, chemicals and fertilizers. Catalyst structure-property-performance relationships are established through extensive spectroscopic and microscopic nanomaterial characterization using advanced techniques available at McMaster University, including at the state-of-the-art Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy facilities. Best in class nanomaterial catalysts are integrated into working electrochemical device prototypes that are engineered for performance validation and demonstration.

Lab Website: https://www.higginslab.com/
E-mail: higgid2@mcmaster.ca

Currently Accepting Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Applications

We have positions available for highly motivated graduate students or postdoctoral fellows who are interested in developing novel nanomaterials and energy technologies that will help transition our world towards sustainability. If interested, please send your CV, transcript and a brief statement of interest to Drew (higgid2@mcmaster.ca).

Research Interests

Some of the current electrochemical reactions and technologies of interest in the Higgins group include:
• Electrochemical reduction of CO2 (i.e., artificial photosynthesis) to produce carbon-based fuels and feedstock chemicals
• Water electrolyzers for sustainable hydrogen production
• Low temperature fuel cells for transportation application
• Electrochemical production of hydrogen peroxide for water treatment applications
• Electrochemical activation and conversion of natural gas to produce value added fuels and chemicals

Representative Publications

For a full list including links, please see Drew’s Google Scholar page

  1. D. Higgins, C. Hahn, C. Xiang, T. Jaramillo, A. Weber, “Gas-Diffusion Electrodes for Carbon Dioxide Reduction: A New Paradigm”, ACS Energy Letters,4 (2019) 317.
  2. P. de Luna, C. Hahn, D. Higgins, S. Jaffer, T. Jaramillo, E. Sargent, “What would it take for renewably-powered electrosynthesis to displace petrochemical processes?”, Science, 364 (2019) eaav3506.
  3. L. Wang, S. Nitopi, A. Wong, J. Snider, A. Nielander, C. Morales-Guio, M. Orazov, D. Higgins, C. Hahn, T. Jaramillo, “Electrochemically converting carbon monoxide to liquid fuels by directing selectivity with electrode surface area”, Nature Catalysis, In Press (2019).
  4. D. Higgins, M. Wette, B. Gibbons, S. Siahrostami, C. Hahn, M. Escudero-Escribano, M. Garcia-Melchor, Z. Ulissi, R. Davis, A. Mehta, B. Clemens, J. Norskov, T. Jaramillo, “Copper Silver Thin Films with Metastable Miscibility for Oxygen Reduction Electrocatalysis in Alkaline Electrolytes”, ACS Applied Energy Materials, 5 (2018) 1990.
  5. S. Xu, Y. Kim, J. Park, D. Higgins, S. Shen, P. Schindler, D. Thian, J. Provine, J. Torgersen, T. Graf, T. Schladt, M. Orazov, B. Liu, T. Jaramillo, F. Prinz, “Extending the Limits of Pt/C Catalysts with Passivation-Gas-Incorporated Atomic Layer Deposition”, Nature Catalysis, 1 (2018) 624.
  6. L. Wang, S. Nitopi, E. Bertheussen, M. Orazov, C. Morales-Guio, X. Liu, D. Higgins, K. Chan, J. Norskov, C. Hahn, T. Jaramillo, “Electrochemical Carbon Monoxide Reduction on Polycrystalline Copper: Effects of Potential, Pressure, and pH on Selectivity toward Multicarbon and Oxygenated Products”, ACS Catalysis, 8 (2018) 7445.
  7. S. Chen, Z. Chen, S. Siahrostami, D. Higgins, D. Nordlund, D. Sokaras, T. Kim, Y. Liu, X. Yan, E. Nillson, R. Sinclair, J. Norskov, T. Jaramillo, Z. Bao, “Designing Boron Nitride Islands in Carbon Materials for Efficient Electrochemical Synthesis of Hydrogen Peroxide”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 25 (2018) 7581.
  8. H. Chung, D. Cullen, D. Higgins, B. Sneed, E. Holby, K. More, P. Zelenay, “Direct Atomic-Level Insight into the Active Sites of a High-Performance PGM free ORR Catalyst”, Science, 357 (2017) 479.
  9. C. Hahn, T. Hatsukade, Y. Kim, A. Vailionis, J. Baricuatro, D. Higgins, S. Nitopi, M. Soriaga, T. Jaramillo, “Engineering Cu surfaces for the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2: Controlling selectivity towards oxygenates and hydrocarbons”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114 (2017) 5918.
  10. S. Chen, Z. Chen, S. Siahrostami, T. Kim, D. Nordlund, D. Sokaras, S. Nowak, J. To, D. Higgins, R. Sinclair, J. Norskov, T. Jaramillo, Z. Bao, “Defective Carbon-Based Materials for the Electrochemical Synthesis of Hydrogen Peroxide”, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Energy, 6 (2017) 311.
  11. D. Higgins, P. Zamani, A. Yu, Z. Chen, “The application of graphene and its composites in oxygen reduction electrocatalysis: a perspective and review of recent progress”, Energy & Environmental Science, 9 (2016) 357-390.
  12. D. Higgins, R. Wang, A. Hoque, P. Zamani, S. Abureden, Z. Chen, “Morphology and composition controlled platinum-cobalt alloy nanowires prepared by electrospinning as oxygen reduction catalyst”, Nano Energy, 10 (2014) 135-143.
  13. D. Higgins, A. Hoque, M. Seo, R. Wang, F. Hassan, J. Choi, M. Pritzker, A. Yu, J. Zhang, Z. Chen, “Development and Simulation of Sulfur-doped Graphene Supported Platinum with Exemplary Stability and Activity Towards Oxygen Reduction”, Advanced Functional Materials, 24 (2014) 4325-4336. Accepted as VIP article and featured on front-piece of the associated issue.
  14. D. Higgins, A. Hoque, F. Hassan, J. Choi, B. Kim, Z. Chen, “Oxygen Reduction on Graphene-Carbon Nanotube Composites Doped Sequentially with Nitrogen and Sulfur”, ACS Catalysis, 4 (2014) 2734-2740.
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