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Thursday, 20 August 2020

Our 2019 laCaixa Junior Leaders in the spotlight: Dr Arnau Carné Sánchez

Recently, the ICN2 welcomed two recipients of the 2019 laCaixa Junior Leader grant: Dr Sonia Ruiz Raga and Dr Arnau Carné Sánchez.  We interviewed Arnau to learn more about him and his research interests and future projects.

Can your summarise your training and professional career up to now?

My research career has focused on the synthesis of functional molecular materials, and on the properties that can be modulated through the principles of Supramolecular Chemistry. In particular, I have pursued the development of porous extended 3D Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) and molecular 0D Metal-Organic Polyhedra (MOPs) from a fundamental and applied point of view.

I was introduced to the field of MOFs during my PhD. The first period of my research career was dedicated to two important challenges that MOFs were presenting: their scale up production and the synthesis of MOFs in the form of nanoparticles (nanoMOFs). These challenges were faced together by implementing a new synthetic methodology that enabled the mass production of nanoMOFs in an environmentally friendly manner.

I could increase my experience in porous materials during my post-doctoral studies within Prof. Susumu Kitagawa's group at Kyoto University (Japan) under the supervision of Prof. Shuhei Furukawa, thanks to the financial support of the 2-years JSPS fellowship that I was granted in 2014. During this postdoctoral stage, I was also introduced to an alternative family of porous materials: the Metal-Organic Polyhedral molecules (MOPs). MOPs are zero-dimensional, nanoscopic porous materials that can be regarded as the molecular counterparts of MOFs. As such, MOPs combine the benefits of MOFs (tailored porosity) with properties inherent to molecules such as being soluble, which makes them highly processable. We took advantage of these features to develop novel soft materials with designed porosity.

The new concepts learned in Prof. Kitagawa’s group were in line with the research conducted in Prof. Daniel Maspoch’s group at ICN2, where I returned in 2017 thanks to a Juan de la Cierva fellowship (Incorporación). Here, I have contributed to process MOFs into functional devices. However, most importantly, in 2018 I have established my independent research line focused on the reactivity and properties of MOPs. We pursuit the development of “molecular nanoparticles” that can be functionalised with atomic precision toward the development of novel drug carriers and pollutant adsorbents.

What project(s) are you going to work on at the ICN2 thanks to this laCaixa Junior Leader grant?

laCaixa Junior Leader grant gives me the opportunity to research on the use of DNA nanotechnology to program the assembly of new porous materials. We want to use the specificity and customised length of DNA in combination with the reactivity and porosity of MOPs to generate new frameworks synthesised “cavity by cavity”. The advantage of this strategy over current synthetic methodologies is that it will enable the combination of several types of cavities within a single porous framework in an orderly manner. I believe that the “cavity by cavity” strategy will deliver porous networks of far greater complexity and therefore far broader applications than can be achieved by current porous materials.

Tell us something more about you, your passions, how you like to spend your time off.

I enjoy spending time with my 1.5 years old son, reading, hiking and drinking good whiskey.


Read the interview with Dr Sonia Ruiz Raga here.