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.$\mathstrut$ $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Feb 7 '18 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ We prefer to not use MathJax in the title field, see here for details. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Feb 7 '18 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン huh. Complicated issue, I guess--thanks! $\endgroup$ – Zubo Feb 7 '18 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 ;) $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Feb 7 '18 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 Feb 7 '18 at 19:12

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 Feb 7 '18 at 13:05

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