Mechanistic investigation of char growth from lignin monomers during biomass utilisation

Shaw, Alexander and Zhang, Xiaolei and Jia, Shuya and Fu, Juan and Lang, Lin and Brown, Robert C (2023) Mechanistic investigation of char growth from lignin monomers during biomass utilisation. Fuel Processing Technology, 239. 107556. ISSN 0378-3820 (

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Char is formed as a significant product from the pyrolysis of biomass, and it is well reported that lignin is the greatest contributor to the production of char. The structures of lignin chars are well studied in literature; however, an elucidation on the lignin char formation mechanism is lacking and this is essential to achieve precise control of biomass thermal conversion. In this work, the char growth process from β-O-4 linkage derived lignin monomers was investigated using density functional theory (DFT) and validated by slow pyrolysis experiments and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) analysis. It was shown that char forms in a two-step process, beginning with the aggregation of two mono-aromatic species to yield tricyclic species, which then participate in further ring forming reactions to yield larger aromatic clusters. The side products generated involve hydrogen, water, methanol, and formaldehyde. Insights from the proposed mechanism are important for guiding future research on char formation during biomass thermochemical conversion processes.