Dr. Laia Francàs Forcada

During my career I have acquired a wide experience in the study of catalytic reactions for solar fuels production: From the catalyst design to the mechanistic study of light-driven reactions. Firstly, I started with the design, synthesis, characterisation and evaluation of molecular homogenous catalysts for water oxidation, during my PhD (2006-2011, 5 publications) in Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) under the supervision of Dr. Escriche, Dr. Sala and Prof. Llobet. My main project during my first postdoctoral stage (2012-2014, 13 publications) in Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) in Llobet’s group was the attachment of these molecular catalysts onto conductive and semiconductive surfaces. At Imperial College London (ICL, 2015-2018 ranked 3rd in Europe, 29 published works) I worked in Prof. Durrant’s group, applying my molecular catalytic knowledge to decipher water oxidation mechanisms on different metal oxides.

Since 2020 I have started my own research group at UAB (5 publications), thanks to a Ramon y Cajal contract (3 publications), to design and study ligand functionalised electrodes and photoelectrodes by the use of UV-Vis spectroelectrochemistry. During this period I has a career break of more than 7 months due to my pregnancy.

I have demonstrated to be a valuable young researcher by being awarded several grants and fellowships during my PhD (in the UAB), my 2nd postdoc at Imperial College London (ICL), and my current position at the UAB. In here it is worth to highlight that I was awarded with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (2015-2017, total 183.455 €) which is one of the most challenging postdoctoral European fellowships. This allowed me to develop the project “Water Oxidation for Solar Fuels Production” at ICL in James Durrant’s group. Currently I am starting my own research group at UAB, thanks to a Ramon y Cajal contract (2020-2025, total 208.600 €), one of the most challenging tenure track contracts in Spain.

In addition, I have participated in 12 research projects. My more important contribution has been in the FET-PROACT A-LEAF H2020 project, in which I was involved in the preparation and development leading ICL participation in it. This project is coordinated by Prof. Galan-Mascarós from ICIQ, and was awarded with a total of 8 million € (488.522 €, for ICL) to develop an artificial leaf. However, I will also highlight the project AlRoSol RSC Research Fund which has been awarded to my group by the Royal Society of Chemistry (Total Budget: 4000 €). Finally, last year I was awarded with a “Proyecto de generación de conocimiento” to carry out the project “Rationally designing photoanodes for water oxidation” (108.900,00€).

During my career I have mentored 6 master, 7 PhD and 4 visiting students (ICIQ and ICL), co-supervised three master projects (ICL), one final degree project in collaboration between ICL and UAB and 8 more in the UAB. Currently I am also supervising a PhD who has been awarded with a FI PhD fellowship funded by la Generalitat de Catalunya. I have given oral presentations in 23 international and national conferences, one of them as a Keynote speaker (International Solid State Ionics -21, 2017) and another four as invited speaker (MATSUS, 2023; Solar2chem winter school, 2023; INTERECT International Conference, 2021 and CPE summer symposium, 2018).

My career has led to 50 important publications (47 in the last 10 years), 7 as corresponding author, in addition to 2 book chapters in the solar fuels field, with 2871 citations and h-index of 28 (WoS): Chemical Society Reviews, Advanced Energy Materials (3), Nature Chemistry (2), JACS (5), ACS Energy Letters (3), Nature Communications (2), ACS Catalysis (4), Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (2), Journal of Materials Chemistry A, Chemical Science (5), ChemSusChem (3), Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry Frontiers , Chemical communications, Chemistry European Journal (2), Sustainable energy and fuels, ACS applied energy materials, Inorganic Chemistry (6), Dalton transactions, Journal of Physical Chemistry C, Catalysis Science and Technology (2), Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Dalton transactions, Catalysts and two book chapters. These publications have an average impact factor of 13.1 and, according to SJR 96% in the first quartile, 75% of them being in the 10 % journal in their field (Chemistry, materials or Energy).

Selected Publications

Check ORCID for the complete list of publications

1. Mesa, A.C., Pastor, E., Francàs L. (CA). “UV–Vis operando spectroelectrochemistry for (photo)electrocatalysis: Principles and guidelines” Current Opinion in Electrochemistry. 2022, 35. IF (2021): 7.664 (Q1, Chemistry). Citations: 5

2. Francàs, L., Selim, S., Corby, S., Lee, D., Mesa, C.A., Pastor, E., Choi, K-S, Durrant, J. R., “Water oxidation kinetics of nanoporous BiVO4 photoanodes functionalised with nickel/iron oxyhydroxide electrocatalysts.” Chemical Science, 2012, 12, 7442-7452. IF: 8.4 (Q1, Chemistry multidisciplinary). Citations: 19

3. Wilson A.A., Corby S., Francàs L. (CA), Durrant J.R., Kafizas A. “The effect of nanoparticulate PdO co-catalysts on the faradaic and light conversion efficiency of WO3 photoanodes for water oxidation” Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2021, 23, 1285-1291. IF: 3.945 (Q1, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry). Citations: 5

4. Corby, S.; Tecedor, M.-G.; Tengeler, S.; et al, Jaegermann, W. (AC); Francàs, L. (CA) Gimenez, S. (AC); Durrant, J. R. (AC) (13/15) “Separating bulk and surface processes in NiO(x)electrocatalysts for water oxidation” Sustainable Energy & Fuels, 2020, 4,5024-5030. IF: 6.813 (Q1, Materials science, multidisciplinary). Citations: 22

5. Mesa, C.A.; Rao, R. R.; Francàs, L.; Corby, S.; Durrant, J.R. “Reply to: Questioning the rate law in the analysis of water oxidation catalysis on haematite photoanodes”. 2020, Nature Chemistry. 2020. IF: 24.274 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary) Citations: 8

6. Mesa, C. A.; Francas, L. (first 2 authors contributed the same); Yang, K. R.; et. Al.; Durrant, J. R. (2/13) ”Multihole water oxidation catalysis on haematite photoanodes revealed by operando spectroelectrochemistry and DFT”, 2020, Nature Chemistry, 12, 82–89. IF: 24.274 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary) Citations: 147

7. Francas, L. (CA); Corby, S.; Selim, S.;et. al..; Durrant, J. R. (1/10) “Spectroelectrochemical study of water oxidation on nickel and iron oxyhydroxide electrocatalysts”, 2019, Nature Communications, 10, Article number: 5208. IF:17.694 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary) Citations: 88

8. Moss, B.; Hegner, F.S.; Corby, S.; et. al.  Francàs, L. (CA); López, N. (AC); Galán-Mascarós AC), J.R.; Durrant, J.R. (AC) (5/9) “Unraveling Charge Transfer in CoFe Prussian Blue Modified BiVO4 Photoanodes” ACS Energy Letters 2019 4 (1), 337-342. IF: 23.991 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary). Citations: 53

9. Francàs, L. (CA); Burns, E.; Steier, L.; et. al; Durrant, J. R. (AC) (1/11) “Rational design of a neutral pH functional and stable organic photocathode.” Chemical Communications, 2018, 54, 5732-5735. IF (2016): 6.065 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary). Citations: 24

10. Corby, S., Francàs, L., Selim S., Sachs, M., Blackman, C., Kafizas, A., Durrant, J. R. “Water oxidation and electron extraction kinetics in nanostructured tungsten trioxide photoanodes.” Journal of the American Chemical Society 2018, 140, 16168-16177. IF: 15 (Q1, Chemistry, multidisciplinary). Citations: 86

11. Francas, L. (CA); Matheu, R.; Pastor, E.; Reynal, A.; Berardi, S.; Sala, X.; Llobet, A.; Durrant, J.R. “Kinetic Analysis of an Efficient Molecular Light-Driven Water Oxidation System” ACS Catalysis, 2017, 7, 5142-5150. IF: 13.700 (Q1, Chemistry, physical). Citations: 31

12. Berardi, S.; Drouet, S.; Francàs, L.; Gimbert-Surinach, C.; Guttentag, M.; Richmond, C.; Stoll, T.; Llobet, A. “Molecular artificial photosynthesis.” Chem. Soc. Rev. 2014, 43, 7501-7519. IF: 60.615.(Q1 Chemistry, Multidiciplinary-Science). Citations: 682

Research Projects

1. Project: CISSel “CISS effect for Selective Organic electrooxidations” Budget: 40.000€. Duration 2023-2025. PI: Dr. Laia Francàs.

2. Project: LiWo “Rationally designing photoanodes for water oxidation” Proyectos de generación de conocimiento. Total budget: 91.650 €. Duration: 2022-2025. PI: Dr. Laia Francàs

3. Project: SOREC2 “SOlar powered molecularly enhanced CO2 REduction towards valuable C2 products”. Total budget UAB: 300.000€. Duration: 2022-2025. Main PI: Carolina Gimbert-Suriñach. Role: Co-PI

4. Project: AlRoSol “Alternatives routes for solar fuels generation” (R20-8077) – RSC Research Fund Total Budget: 4000 € Duration: 2021-2022. PI: Dr. Laia Francàs.

5. Project: SelPEC. “Conversión (foto)electroquímica selectiva de CO2 a combustibles y productos químicos multicarbono (C2+) mediante nanocatalizadores funcionalizados en superficie. Total Budget: 161,690.00 €. Duration: 2022-2024. PI: Xavier Sala. Role: team member.

6. Project: CrineSens “Development of a highly sensitive, fast and durable electrochemical sensor for the in-situ determination of endocrine disruptor chemicals” Total budget: 20k€, PI: Xavier Sala. Role: team member

7. Project: A-LEAF “An Artificial Leaf: a photo-electro-catalytic cell from earth-abundant materials for sustainable solar production of CO2-based chemicals and fuels “(732840) FETPROACT-01-2016 – FET Proactive: emerging themes and communities. Total Budget: 7 980 861.25 € (Imperial College London, 488.522 €). Main PI: James R. Durrant. Role: Co-PI, Dr. Laia Francàs

8. Project: INTERSOLAR “Rectifying interfaces for solar driven fuel synthesis” (291482)-  ERC-AG – ERC Advanced Grant. Total Budget: 1 800 000. Duration 2012-2018. PI: James R. Durrant. Role: Researcher.

9. Project: OPIK “Organic bulk heterojunction photocathodes for solar driven hydrogen generation from water” (OSR-2015-CRG4-2572) KAUST Competitive Research Grant (CRG) 2015. Total Budget: 840000 €. Duration: 2015-2018. PI: James R. Durrant and Iain McCulloch. Role: Researcher

10. Project: “Cel·la prototip de fotosíntesi artificial per a la generació de combustible solar (Artificial photosynthesis prototype cell for the generation of solar fuel)”. Obra social la Caixa – Generalitat de Catalunya. Total Budget: 500000 €. Duration: 2012-2014. PI: Antoni Llobet Dalmases. Role: Researcher. 11. Project: Solar H2 “European Solar-Fuel Initiative – Renewable Hydrogen from Sun and Water. Science Linking Molecular Biomimetics and Genetics”. (212508) FP7-ENERGY-2007-1-RTD. Total Budget: 5 533 970 €. Duration: 2009-2013. Coordinator: Stenbjörn Styring. PI (ICIQ): Antoni Llobet Dalmases. Role: Researcher

Contracts and Fellowships

1. Ramon y Cajal contract. (RYC2018-025394-I) Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. Total Funding: 208600 €. Duration: 2020-2025. Place: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

2. Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (658270) H2020-MSCA-IF-2014. Total Funding: 183454.80 €. Duration: 2015-2017. Place: Imperial College London

3. Beca de formacio i suport a la investigacio de la UAB (FI-UAB). Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Duration: 2007-2011. Place: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Student Supervision

PhD students:

[2021-currently]: Álvaro Lozano Roche – UAB

[2015-2018]: At Imperial College since I was not a faculty member, I was appointed assistant supervisor of 3 PhD thesis, this involved the design of the projects, day-to-day laboratory work, PhD manuscript correction and manuscript revision. These has led to the publication of 10 papers; [2015-2019] Dr. C. Mesa now Postdoc at INAM; [2017-2021] Dr. S. Corby; [2016-2021] Dr. S. Selim.

Master students:

[2023-currently]: Marta Sendra, Electrochemical MRes (UAB)

[2023-currently]: Maria Garrido, Chemical research MRes (UAB)

[2023-currently]: Marc Esteban, Chemical research MRes (UAB)

[2016-2017]: Yi Wen, Nanomaterials MRes (ICL), currently a PhD student at Oxford university.

[2017/2018]: William Yau, Nanomaterials MRes (ICL).

[2017-2018]: Anna Wilson, Green Chemistry MRes (ICL), who was awarded with high quality MRes thesis, currently a PhD student at Imperial College London.

TFG Students:

[2022-2023]: Maria Garrido (Chemistry) and Marc Esteban (Chemistry) – UAB

[2021-2022]: Helena Martinez (Chemistry) – UAB

[2020-2021]: Ariadna Trullols (Chemistry), David Romero (Chemistry), Pau Grèbol (Physics/Chemistry), Manel Rio (Nanotechnology). – UAB

[2017-2018]: Yolanda Sabater (Nanotechonology) -ICL/UAB

Selected Conferences

[2023] Invited speaker, Materials for sustainable Development Conference (MATSUS23).

[2023] Invited speaker, winter school of Solar-2-Chem.

[2021] Invited speaker, International Conference on Frontiers in Electrocatalytic Transformations.

[2020] Invited expert. Workshop on Potential Alternative Aviation Fuels for Aircraft

[2018] Invited speaker, Center of Plastic Electronics summer symposium.

[2017] Keynote speaker at International Solid State Ionics -21.

Outreach and Communication Activities
  • Promoting research amongst the general public:

[2015-2018] Annually, Solar Energy stall at Imperial Festival (Imperial Festival London)

[2014] Science outreach video for ICIQ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW6SFBmuuss.

[2013] interview of a TV program in Tarragona TV.

  • Promoting research amongst young students:

[2015- ] Co-organiser of the outreach course, Artificial photosynthesis, the challenge to mimic the plants, in the program Youth and Science de la Fundació la Pedrera:

[2014] Preparation and delivering an outreach activity about pH in Químia en família (Chemistry in family) organised by ICIQ

  • Promoting equality and diversity in research:

[2020- ] Talks in schools and high schools regarding solar fuels to engage young students to science, one of them in the frame of the day of girls and women in science.

[2019- ] Design and delivery of unconscious bias in science activity during the development of the Artificial photosynthesis, the challenge to mimic the plants, in the program Youth and Science de la Fundació la Pedrera