Night view of Simon Fraser University from David Novitski

Holdcroft Group

Polymers for Electrochemical Energy

Steven Holdcroft
Canada Research Chair in Electrochemical Materials
Professor of Chemistry
BSc: University of Salford, UK
PhD: Simon Fraser University
NSERC PDF: University of Toronto

Department of Chemistry

Simon Fraser University

8888 University Drive, Burnaby,

Greater Vancouver, BC

Office: SSB 8102

Tel: (778) 782.4221

Selected Awards and Recognitions:
  • B.C. Advanced Systems Institute, Faculty Award

  • Faculty of Science, Excellence in Teaching Award

  • University Excellence in Teaching Award

  • IFCI-National Research Council Teamwork Award

  • Clarence Karcher Student Student Lecture Award, Oklahoma Univ

  • Macromolecular Science and Engineering Division (CIC) Award

  • CSC Rio Tinto/Alcan Award for national contributions in Inorganic Chemistry or Electrochemistry

  • CRC Tier 1 in Electrochemical Materials

  • Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada 

  • Technical Director, CaRPE-FC []

  • Past Chair, Department of Chemistry, SFU

  • Past Group Leader, National Research Council of Canada

  • Co-Founder, Ionomr Innovations. Inc.

Polymers for Electrochemical Energy
A class of functional macromolecules that are driving next-generation technologies are Ion-Conducting Polymers. Through the design and synthesis of functional macromolecules, my program of research explores relationships between molecular structure, morphology, and properties – it is designed to provide a platform of fundamental knowledge and training to foster the development of next generation electrochemical energy technologies. 
Interest in ion-conducting polymers, particularly H and OH conducting, has grown commensurately with the emergence of electrochemical energy conversion technologies (e.g., fuel cells, electrolyzers, redox flow batteries, solar fuel devices). Perfluorosulfonic acid (PFSA) ionomer, for which the polymer chains organize into bundles in solution that lead to ionic channels in the solid state, is the quintessential cation-conducting polymer; but it has significant, well-known shortcomings. In the corollary case of alkaline media, polymers employed for hydroxide-transporting membranes typically possess quaternary ammonium groups covalently bonded to a polymer backbone, but the stability of these groups is known to be unacceptable in highly alkaline solutions. 
The evolution of polymer films for emerging electrochemical technologies involves exploring strategies that couple the ease-of-processing characteristics of polymers with the formation of long range order in the solid state to promote ionic transport. In the case of anion transporting materials the complexity of designing organic polymers that are stable to caustic environments is an additional challenge.  The primary objective of my program of research is the exploration of synthetic strategies towards the design of novel and durable ion-containing polymers that can be used to probe how molecular structure controls polymer morphology and, in turn, how morphology dictates ion-transport in solid polymer electrolytes. Sub-projects within this program address the structural control of hydrocarbon-based, proton- and hydroxide-conducting polymers. These projects build on different oligomeric building blocks recently developed in my laboratory in order to expand our understanding and control of these complex structures.  
In the context of developing a program in solid polymer electrolytes, my group is also developing an interdisciplinary field of photoelectrochemistry at pi-conjugated polymer electrodes. This program investigates strategies involving polymer synthesis, electrochemistry, and photoelectrochemistry of pi-conjugated polymers in solid polymer electrolytes, with the future goal of liberating hydrogen from solar-irradiated organic films. A brief synopsis of the research programs is provided.