Dr. Higgins will address important aspects of CO2R catalyst development, including alloying and surface structure engineering approaches to tune activity and selectivity. He will discuss the remaining challenges facing artificial photosynthesis technology deployment, along with preliminary results for the integration of CO2R catalysts into practical device prototypes.
Electrochemical CO2 reduction (CO2R) provides a sustainable route to produce the fuels and industrially relevant chemicals that society depends upon. While these products are generally fossil fuel derived, renewable energy (i.e., wind, solar, hydro) can be coupled with CO2R to achieve a carbon-neutral artificial photosynthesis process. In particular, CO2 can be reduced to form single- and multi-carbon products, including fuels such as methane and ethanol, along with valuable chemicals, including ethylene and acetaldehyde. Despite the significant promise, the efficiency of CO2R catalysts and product selectivity remain two important challenges. They can be addressed by increasing our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of electrochemical CO2 reduction and applying it toward the rational design catalyst materials with improved performance capabilities.
Drew Higgins completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in 2015 under the supervision of Professor Zhongwei Chen. His PhD work involved the synthesis, characterization, and device integration of nanostructured oxygen reduction catalysts for low temperature fuel cells. During this time, he spent just under one year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory working under the mentorship of Dr. Piotr Zelenay. In 2015, Drew started a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford University in the Department of Chemical Engineering, working in Professor Thomas Jaramillo’s group. His research focused on obtaining a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms and properties governing electrochemical CO2 reduction catalysis. In 2017, he was promoted to Associate Staff Scientist at Stanford University / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. In January 2019, Drew will begin as an assistant professor in chemical engineering at McMaster University where his research will focus on nanostructured CO2R catalyst and artificial photosynthesis device prototype development. For more information, visit his Nanomaterial Catalysts for Sustainable Energy Technologies website.