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Mechanism of Fast Pyrolysis of Lignin: Studying Model Compounds

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Custodis V.B.F., Hemberger P., Ma Z., van Bokhoven J. A. ,
Project Understanding and manipulating free radicals in lignin for a controlled depolymerization to chemicals
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Physical Chemistry B
Volume (Issue) 118(29)
Page(s) 8524 - 8531
Title of proceedings Journal of Physical Chemistry B


Fast pyrolysis of lignin is one of the most promising methods to convert the complex and irregular structure of lignin into renewable chemicals and fuel. During pyrolysis the complex set of radical reactions, rearrangements, and eliminations is influenced by temperature, pressure, and the lignin origin and structure. This model compound study aims to understand reaction pathways and how primary intermediates lead to the observed product selectivity. The pyrolysis microreactor directly connected to the gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer (py-GC/MS) detects the final products, while imaging photoelectron photoion coincidence (iPEPICO) with VUV synchrotron radiation shows primary decomposition radicals. The tested model compounds, diphenylether (DPE) and ortho-methoxyphenol (guaiacol), represent a common lignin linkage and the most present subunit in lignin, respectively. Radical fragments, such as the hydroxycyclopentadienyl radical in guaiacol decomposition, are identified by mass-selected threshold photoelectron spectra (ms-TPES) in excellent agreement with the Franck−Condon simulation. While homolysis produces phenoxy-, phenyl-, and hydroxyphenoxy radicals, which are observed in high vacuum, radically initiated reactions are dominant in ambient conditions and produce recombination and rearrangement products, such as 2-hydroxybenzaldehyde in the case of guaiacol. The degree of substitution plays a dominant role in both the stabilization of the intermediate radical and the following degree of recombination. The recombination of phenoxy radicals is enhanced compared to hydroxy-phenoxy radicals.