Luke Higgins

EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow

Email: L.J.R.Higgins[at]
School of Chemical and Process Engineering
University of Leeds
Location: WFH
Links: LinkedIn| ResearchGate| Twitter

Research Interests: Hydrothermal Carbonisation | Energy Materials | X-ray Spectroscopy and Imaging | X-ray Scattering


Luke graduated from the University of Kent with an undergraduate masters’ degree in physics with a year abroad at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Luke’s dissertation focussed on the synthesis and characterisation of multiferroic and magnetically frustrated metal-organic frameworks using X-ray diffraction. During his time at the University of California, Luke worked as an undergraduate assistant, designing software for a photon counting X-ray detector. Luke’s interest in renewable energies stems from his part-time work with two renewable technology startups, Newform Energy and Convert Energy.

Luke recently submitted his doctorate thesis entitled “Multiscale X-ray approaches towards the structure and function of pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbons”. During his PhD, Luke studied two biorefinery processes to produce sustainable carbon materials form biomass: hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) and pyrolysis. Luke’s project aimed to build a more complete understanding of (i) how hydrochar is formed during HTC, (ii) the bulk chemistry of pyrolysis carbon, and (iii) applying these materials for the recovery of precious resources. The novelty of Luke’s project came from the use of state-of-the-art synchrotron X-ray techniques, including the pioneering application of X-ray Raman spectroscopy.


PhD in Chemical Engineering – University of Leeds (2016 – 2020)
MPhys(Hons) in Physics – University of Kent (2012 – 2016)


EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship (Current)

EPSRC Doctoral Scholarship Bioenergy (2012-2016)


In the future, many materials will need to be produced sustainably from biowastes as part of an integrated biorefinery. In this way, useful higher-value materials (e.g. fuels, platform chemicals) will be derived from waste biomass. Luke’s project focusses on hydrothermal carbonisation as a sustainable route for processing wet biomass wastes (e.g. coffee grounds) into useful carbons with applications in energy storage. Producing carbons with adequate properties for energy storage devices will require new insights into hydrothermal carbon chemistry, as well as direct communication with industry and other relevant stakeholders. Luke’s project aims to study the nucleation and growth of hydrothermal carbon, as well as the effects of heteroatom doping for improved material performance. Finally, the studied materials will be integrated into a prototype device.


Member of the Institute of Physics (MInstP)



  • Higgins, L. J. R., Brown, A. P., Harrington, J. P., Ross, A. B., Kaulich, B., & Mishra, B. (2020). Evidence for a core-shell structure of hydrothermal carbon. Carbon, 161, 423–431.
  • Higgins, L. J. R., Sahle, C. J., Balasubramanian, M., & Mishra, B. (2020). X-ray Raman scattering for bulk chemical and structural insight into green carbon. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 22(33), 18435–18446.


Invited Talks:

  • Higgins, L.J.R., “Shining Light on Renewable Carbon Chemistry” (Invited Talk), Advanced Photon Source (APS) USA, November 2019.

International Conferences:

  • Higgins, L.J.R., Ross, A.B.R., Mishra, B., “Carbon K-edge X-ray Raman Spectroscopy (XRS) of Sustainable Hydrothermal Carbons at two Popular Beamlines (APS 20ID, ESRF ID20)”, XAFS2018, Krakow Poland, July 2018.
  • Higgins, L.J.R., Ross, A.B.R., Brown, A.P., Mishra, B., Studying the Fundamental Properties of Hydrochar using Synchrotron Radiation, 2nd Hydrothermal Carbonisation Symposium, Berlin Germany, May 2019.
  • Higgins, L.J.R., Kaulich, B., Ross, A.B.R., Brown, A.P., Mishra, B., “Application of STXM to Investigate Structural Evolution in Hydrothermal Carbon”, Microscience Microscopy Congress, Manchester United Kingdom, July 2019.
  • Higgins, L.J.R., Ross, A.B.R., Brown, A.P., Mishra, B., “Studying Sustainable Carbon Materials using X-ray Raman Spectroscopy”, EBS workshop on X-ray Raman Scattering spectroscopy, Grenoble France, April 2019.