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Nanomaterial Catalysts for
Sustainable Energy Technologies


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, batteries, electrolyzers or supercapacitors. 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.

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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.

Some of the current electrochemical reactions and technologies of interest in the Higgins group include:



Electrochemistry, electrocatalysis, CO2 conversion, fuel cells, electrolysis, nano materials, sustainable energy, energy conversion and storage, operando characterization, in situ characterization, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, batteries, supercapacitors


We are always looking for highly motivated graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. If interested, please send your CV, transcript and a brief statement of interest to Drew at


The Higgins group and McMaster University are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. While all qualified applicants are invited to apply, we particularly welcome applications from individuals that identify with groups traditionally underrepresented in Engineering, and we will strive to hire individuals who share our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

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