Scientists at Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a green technique to transform carbon dioxide into useful compounds for pharmaceuticals and chemicals industries.

The country’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A* STAR) said on Tuesday that the scientists have devised a new environmentally friendly technique to transform carbon dioxide, an abundant and renewable carbon source, into highly functionalized propiolic acids. These acids are basic building blocks for the synthesis of a wide range of pharmaceuticals such as cholesterol— reducing drugs and peptidomimetic and other small molecule inhibitors that may be used, for example, to kill cancer cells.

IBN’s approach involves the direct activation of the CH bond and carboxylation of the terminal alkynes using a novel copper and copperN—heterocyclic carbene catalyst that the researchers developed specifically for this reaction.

Moving forward, the IBN researchers hope to further develop this technology for the large—scale synthesis of industrial chemicals from carbon dioxide.