Cell-Free CO2Valorization to C6 Pharmaceutical Precursors via a Novel Electro-Enzymatic Process

Joshua Jack, Haigen Fu, Aaron Leininger, Todd K. Hyster, Zhiyong Jason Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The healthcare industry emits significant amounts of CO2and has an imperative need for decarbonization. This study demonstrated a new hybrid electro-enzymatic process that converts waste CO2into high-value C6 pharmaceutical precursor compounds. A novel three-chamber electrolyzer equipped with a Cu-based gas diffusion electrode converted gaseous CO2into ethanol at a high current density (40-60 mA/cm2), high selectivity (43-81 mol %), and production rate (368-428 mg/L/h). Purified ethanol from the electrolyzer was then sent to an enzymatic bioreactor where ADH and DERA enzymes upgraded ethanol into C6 statin precursor molecules at high yields (29-35%) via acetaldehyde. Competitive C6 lactol synthesis rates (4.7-5.7 mM/day) and titers (712-752 mg/L) were achieved, demonstrating the potential of the end-to-end process. The C6 lactol product can seamlessly be converted to statins, a class of lipid-lowering medication that is among the largest selling class of drugs in the world. This hybrid process provides a new pathway for CO2valorization to high-value products and accelerates healthcare sector decarbonization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4114-4121
Number of pages8
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 4 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • 2-deoxy-ribose-5-phosphate aldolase
  • COvalorization
  • electro-enzymatic synthesis
  • hybrid COreduction
  • sustainable chemicals


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