Luke Higgins

Luke Higgins


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 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.

Research interests

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.


  • PhD - University of Leeds (2016-2020, awaiting viva)
  • MSc (integrated) - University of Leeds (2016-2020)
  • MPhys(Hons) - University of Kent (2012-2016)

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Institute of Physics