Fast pyrolysis is a thermochemical process to fragment large biopolymers such as cellulose to chemical intermediates which can be refined to renewable fuels and chemicals. Levoglucosan (LGA), a six-carbon oxygenate, is the most abundant primary product from cellulose pyrolysis with LGA yields reported over a wide range of 5-80 percent carbon (%C). In this study, the variation of the observed yield of LGA from cellulose pyrolysis was experimentally investigated. Cellulose pyrolysis experiments were conducted in two different reactors: the Frontier micropyrolyzer (2020-iS), and the pulse heated analysis of solid reactions (PHASR) system. The reactor configuration and experimental conditions including cellulose sample size were found to have a significant effect on the yield of LGA. Four different hypotheses were proposed and tested to evaluate the relationship of cellulose sample size and the observed LGA yield including (a) thermal promotion of LGA formation, (b) the crystallinity of cellulose samples, (c) secondary and vapor-phase reactions of LGA, and (d) the catalytic effect of melt-phase hydroxyl groups. Co-pyrolysis experiments of cellulose and fructose in the PHASR reactor presented indirect experimental evidence of previously postulated catalytic effects of hydroxyl groups in glycosidic bond cleavage for LGA formation in transport-limited reactor systems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences − Catalysis (DE-SC0016346).
© 2018 American Chemical Society.