Holdcroft group

Polymers for Electrochemical Energy



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Holdcroft Steven 47Hr

Steven Holdcroft

Dr. Steven Holdcroft is the former president of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC), a Professor of Chemistry, and former Chair of the Department. He holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Electrochemical Materials.

He researches ionic polymers, electrochemistry, and hydrogen-based electrochemical technology. He has authored/co-authored 300+ articles. He was the Technical Program Chair of Pacifichem 2010 and Pacifichem 2015 congresses. He was the Group Chair of NSERC’s Evaluation Group 1504 (Chemistry) and served on the Committee for Discovery Research reporting to the Vice President, Research, NSERC. He serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the journals Energy and Environmental Science, Electrochemical Energy Reviews, and Journal of Power Sources Advances.

In 2017, with three former students, he cofounded Vancouver-based Ionomr Innovations Inc., a thriving 50+ person SFU spin-out commercializing materials (Aemion and Pemion) for clean energy applications.

For services to the community, Dr. Holdcroft was awarded the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Division Award of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) and is a recipient of the Canadian Society of Canada RioTinto Alcan Award for contributions to electrochemical research. He has received the Outstanding Alumni Award from his alma mater (SFU) for Academic Achievement. In 2024 he was awarded the CIC Montreal Medal for his contributions to the Canadian chemical community and in the same year received the prestigious Governor General’s Innovation Award. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada


Hydroxyde Ion-Conductive Polymers
Hydroxide Ion-Conducting Polymers

Hydroxide Ion-Conducting Polymers. The Holdcroft group synthesizes and studies hydroxide ion-conducting polymers for alkaline water electrolysis, fuel cells, and CO2 electrolysis.
We designed a new sub-class of polymers, C2-sterically-protected polybenzimidazoliums and polyimidazoliums, which are exceptionally stable under highly caustic conditions at elevated temperatures: J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2012), ACS Macro. Lett. (2014 & 2016), Angewandte Chemie (2016) & Nature Comm. (2019).

Proton-Conducting Polymers
Proton-Conducting Polymers

We are studying the synthesis of novel proton-containing polymers in order to further understand how polymer structure controls polymer morphology and how morphology facilitates ion-transport.
Our work focuses on multi-phenylated, sulfonated polyphenylenes, and a method to prepare highly controlled, reproducible polymers: J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2015), Angewandte Chemie (2017), Macromolecules (2019 & 2020).

Transport Properties
Transport Properties

The study of transport of ions, reactant gases, and water in solid polymer electrolytes is of great interest to us. Examples include correlations of proton and hydroxide ion conductivity as a function of water/ion ratio and as a function of membrane morphology, solid-state electrochemistry of dissolved oxygen at membrane/Pt interfaces, and systematic studies of adsorption and diffusion of water: J.Am.Chem.Soc. (2016), ACS Mater.Lett. (2019), J. Mem.Sci. (2019).

Electrochemical devices
Electrochemical devices

We design, fabricate, and analyze various types of electrochemical devices that utilize solid polymer electrolytes.
These include fuel cells, water electrolyzers, and CO2RR electrolyzers, with a focus on component and interfacial phenomenon, and an emphasis on novel materials based on non-fluorous polymeric membranes: J.Electrochem.Soc. (2020), J. Power Sources Adv. (2020), RSC Adv (2020), J. Mem. Sci., (2019), ACS Applied Energy Materials (2019), ChemElectroChem. (2020).

Up-Scaled Polymer Synthesis
Up-Scaled Polymer Synthesis

In 2016, with four group members, we founded Ionomr Innovations Inc. to scale up and commercialize hydrocarbon solid polymer electrolyte technology.
Today, this company employs more than 25 people, is central to many global research endeavors researching emerging clean energy technologies. Ionomr has received numerous national and international accolades (Coast Capital Venture Prize, 'Ready to Rocket' list, Hong Kong-Canada Venture Prize, Nouryon International Imagine Chemistry Prize, and the International Start Up Energy Transition (SET) Award.
The Holdcroft Group continues to study chemistry underpinning large scale polymer synthesis and membrane fabrication: Energy Environ. Sci. (2016), Macromolecules (2019 & 2020), J. Mem. Sci. (2020).

π-Conjugated Polymers
π-Conjugated Polymers

Our group has a long history researching π-conjugated polymers (πCPs), particularly their structure-function, solid state, chemically-amplified-, soft-, and, thermal-lithography, their photochemistry, and related macromolecular electronics.
We recently investigates the photoelectrochemistry of conjugated polymers, a concept we introduced in the 90’s and which has re-emerged under the topic, “solar fuels”: Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells (2019), Synthetic Metals (2019), & Can. J. Chem., 96 (2018).

CO2 Reduction
CO2 Reduction

Low-temperature polymer electrolyte-based devices that drive the electrochemical reduction of CO2 and CO towards value added products have become a staple in carbon utilization strategies worldwide. The emergence of novel, cheap catalyst materials and innovative cell designs have opened a pathway towards economic viability of these new kinds of electrolyzers which heavily rely on the performance and durability of the deployed polymer electrolytes.

Our established, highly conductive, and robust anion conducting and cation conducting polymers offer a unique materials platform that allows us to tune specific (transport/stability) polymer properties towards the requirements of these new devices. We study the fundamental processes at the electrode-electrolyte interface that determine the balance of reactants in the cathode catalyst layer, and design membrane-electrode-assemblies that enable efficient and stable CO2 electrolysis.

(Mardle, P.; Holdcroft, S; et al., J Phys. Chem. C. 2021, 125.)

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