Scientific Research Project Title

CO2 in Homologation Reactions and the Origin of Life

Research Institution

University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen

Research field


Research leader

Jiwoong Lee

Associate Professor

Project title

CO2 in Homologation Reactions and the Origin of Life

What is your project about?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an unavoidable by-product of human activities, and it therefore requires broader strategies than mere emission control. Carbon capture and sequestration is deemed a viable approach, but is still costly. Chemical CO2-fixation reactions have been pursued extensively, but are still at a stage incommensurate with the current CO2 emission levels. Better than capturing and retaining waste is, however, finding new applications for it, thereby transforming it into a resource. I propose a ground-breaking goal here: CO2 utilization in homologation reactions of aldehydes (RCHO), which can enlighten us for prebiotic chemistry of CO2 and the origin of life.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I like build things and I have been in love with organic chemistry and organic synthesis to build molecules. Using the vast amount of accumulated knowledge in organic chemistry, one can also design and create new synthetic methods by developing new chemical reactions. I like to invent new things, therefore I like to develop new organic reactions.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

It is difficult to utilize carbon dioxide for organic reactions as one wishes. Here I will investigate the chemical reactivity of CO2 to generate pyruvate, and chiral carbohydrates which are important molecules for living organisms. This will guide us to propose a new scenario of origin of life where CO2 is involved in the prebiotic synthesis of crucial building blocks of life.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

Carbon dioxide is critical for all forms of life on Earth and CO2 is the crucial evidence that all living organisms and the ecosystems are dissipating energy and maintaining the equilibria. The emergence of global attention to world-wide climate, environment and sustainability of human civilization gives rise to the vast interest in carbon fixation, CO2-caputre and utilization. This proposal is not to mitigate the global greenhouse gas issues but to provide a general guideline for the reactivity of carbon dioxide in chemical reactions, thus widening the utility of CO2 and creating synergy with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

Sapere Aude program is very prestigious recognition for conducting fundamental research in science. This program will give me ample opportunity to explore what I am passionate about in chemical science to reveal the role of CO2 in the first chemical reaction led to the formation of life.

Background and personal life

I am from South Korea. I enjoy spending time with my wife, a little son and a cat. I like reading, running and walking around in Copenhagen.

City of your current residence


High school

Wooshin High School, South Korea