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U Waterloo researcher awarded 2016 Distinguished Dissertation Award for work on fuel cell catalysts

Dr. Drew Higgins from the University of Waterloo has won the 2016 Canada’s Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) in the category of Engineering/Medical Science/Natural Science for his work on fuel cell catalysts.

Under the supervision of Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy, Higgins developed an alloy that slashed the use of platinum. Rather than simply match the performance of current catalysts, it actually proved seven times more effective.

Continuing his research, he ultimately identified half a dozen options that eliminated the precious metal entirely.

The 60+ research papers resulting from his work have been cited more than 3,600 times to date.

His originality, perseverance and ability to think outside the box to create impactful solutions is everything we look for.

—CAGS President Dr. Brenda Brouwer

His eventual goal is to create a fuel cell that will last 5,000 hours of operation and be competitive with typical internal combustion engines.

Higgins is now continuing his electrocatalysis work at Stanford as a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow.

The CAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards have been recognizing outstanding Canadian doctoral dissertations for more than 20 years. The judges look for work that makes significant, original contributions to the academic community and to Canadian society. There are two awards: one for engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one for fine arts, humanities and social sciences. They include a $1,500 prize and an invitation to speak to the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies conference to be held this November in Toronto.



Seven times more efficient with less costly (platinum) could reduce FCs total cost significantly.

FCs, of all sizes, could eventually drive small 2, 3 and 4 wheel vehicles to trains and ships with a lot less GHG and pollution than fossil fuels.

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