Isabel Abánades Lázaro receives a Junior Leader scholarship to synthesise more efficient MOF materials on demand

Isabel AbánadesIsabel Abánades
The researcher at the Institute of Molecular Science (ICMol) Isabel Abánades Lázaro has obtained a scholarship from the Junior Leader program of the La Caixa Foundation in her Retaining call. The aid will go to strengthen a line of research aimed at synthesising new MOF structures with defects of interest in the environmental sector.

MOFs (Metal-Organic Frameworks) are three-dimensional, crystalline, and porous chemical compounds, whose exceptional characteristics make them useful for multiple applications in areas as diverse as gas storage and separation, ion exchange, or catalysis, among others.

The work that Isabel Abánades Lázaro carries out in the ICMol’s Crystal Engineering Lab (CEL) group revolves around the chemistry and engineering of ’MOF defects’, a concept referring to gaps or vacancies in the network crystalline that makes up an MOF. Defects, in materials chemistry, are often desired imperfections because they give the material interesting properties. "There are defects that provide MOFs with greater reactivity, allow them to generate energy more quickly, or make them more porous and, therefore, capable of storing more water or gases", explains the scientist now selected by the Junior program. Leader of the La Caixa Foundation.

The scholarship, endowed with 305,000 euros for a period of three years, will go towards strengthening this line of research aimed at the synthesis of new MOF structures with defects of interest for improving the environment. "It is about understanding the assembly process of the materials during the synthesis to later control the type of materials that we develop and the type of defect that it contains", says Abánades. "One of our objectives is to synthesise them on demand and prepare them for their application in projects related to the environment, such as photocatalysis for the decontamination of cities or the generation of hydrogen from water to obtain clean and renewable energy, to name a few. Examples", he concludes.

Isabel Abánades has a degree in Chemistry from the University of Alcalá (2014) and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Glasgow (2018). After enjoying a grant from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie program, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), she is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Juan de la Cierva program of the Ministry of Science and Innovation at the Institute of Molecular Science, centre of the University of Valencia accredited as a María de Maeztu Excellence Unit. In 2022, she was part of the selection of young researchers who participated in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the world forum that brings together Nobel laureates from different disciplines with leaders of the future and to which 600 researchers from more than 100 countries who stand out for their talent and social commitment are invited.

The award of the La Caixa Junior Leader scholarship represents another significant step in Abánades’ scientific career, given the highly competitive nature of this aid programme, which in its Retaining modality selects 15 people each year to develop a research project in any university or centre in Spain or Portugal. In the 2023 call, the program received 292 applications.