Abiotic sugar synthesis from CO2 electrolysis

09 December 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


CO2 valorization is aimed at converting waste CO2 to value-added products. While steady progress has been achieved through diverse catalytic strategies, including CO2 electrosynthesis, CO2 thermocatalysis, and biological CO2 fixation, each of these approaches have distinct limitations. Inorganic catalysts only enable synthesis beyond C2 and C3 products with poor selectivity and with a high energy requirement. Meanwhile, although biological organisms can selectively produce complex products from CO2, their slow autotrophic metabolism limits their industrial feasibility. Here, we present an abiotic approach leveraging electrochemical and thermochemical catalysis to complete the conversion of CO2 to life-sustaining carbohydrate sugars akin to photosynthesis. CO2 was electrochemically converted to glycolaldehyde and formaldehyde using copper nanoparticles and boron-doped diamond cathodes, respectively. CO2-derived glycolaldehyde then served as the key autocatalyst for the formose reaction, where glycolaldehyde and formaldehyde combined in the presence of an alkaline earth metal catalyst to form a variety of C4 - C8 sugars, including glucose. In turn, these sugars were used as a feedstock for fast-growing and genetically modifiable Escherichia coli. Altogether, we have assembled a platform that pushes the boundaries of product complexity achievable from CO2 conversion while demonstrating CO2 integration into life-sustaining sugars.


CO2 valorization
CO2 reduction
CO2 upcycling
Sugar synthesis
Formose reaction
Prebiotic chemistry

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information - Abiotic sugar synthesis from CO2 electrolysis
Supplementary Information for "Abiotic sugar synthesis from CO2 electrolysis." Contents: Discussion S1, Figures S1-17, Tables S1-2.


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.