What is the simplest pathway from glucose to $\ce{H2O}$ and $\ce{CO2}$, such that

  1. all reactions happen in aqueous solution with pH between 5 and 8,
  2. temperature is in range between 0 and 35 °C,
  3. no (expensive) enzymes are required,
  4. the reaction is completed in around 6 hours, and
  5. no toxic or harmful intermediates are formed and no toxic or harmful catalysts are used?

I realize that one possible answer to this would be, in biochemistry,

glycolysis → pyruvate decarboxylation → citric acid cycle → oxidative phosphorylation;

this is a fairly complex reaction cascade, however. Is there a way chemistry could simplify this in comparable (more or less physiological) conditions?

Aside from a possible (retro-)synthetic approach, there might be a catalytic option. I've found a publication by Degering and Upson* that describes iron pyrophosphate as a catalyst, but the reaction times are far higher (around 3 weeks), the temperature is relatively high and the reaction appears to be relatively messy in terms of products.

* Edward F. Degering and Fred W. Upson, J. Biol. Chem. 1931, 94, 423-431. DOI: n/a; URL: http://www.jbc.org/content/94/2/423.short (pdf) (no https available)

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    $\begingroup$ Eat it.$\mathstrut$ $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We prefer to not use MathJax in the title field, see here for details. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン huh. Complicated issue, I guess--thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Zubo
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ If you care for some more on the issue: chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2774/4945 It's totally okay not to care ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン I see that much thought has been given to this. Looks like I'm on your side, then--it seems that unless this issue is handled in this sort of minimalist way, the slug likely will come back to bite at some point. $\endgroup$
    – Zubo
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


I'd suggest you read into the Fenton process. Using an iron catalyst with hydrogen peroxide will break down (potentially) any organic matter into $\ce{CO2}$ and $\ce{H2O}$ within minutes or hours. The only drawback from your requirements is the pH, since I think this is only down in acidic solution, but you could do a little research to find out more.

  • $\begingroup$ Looked at it--very interesting, thanks! From the first look, it does appear like the Fenton process is a rather aggressive reaction, involving both hydrogen peroxide and two radicals. Perhaps I can learn more about it. $\endgroup$
    – Zubo
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 13:05

Converting glucose into water and carbon dioxide through a process other than burning involves cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is a metabolic pathway that cells use to extract energy from glucose and convert it into water and carbon dioxide. The process occurs in multiple stages, primarily glycolysis, the citric acid cycle (Krebs cycle), and the electron transport chain.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Your answer does not seem to contribute anything significant to a question answered almost six years ago. This looks like an AI produced answer. Actually, I have obtained a very similar response to yours from an AI chatbox. $\endgroup$
    – PAEP
    Commented Jan 18 at 15:33

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