Chapter 8: Pyrolysis Mechanisms of Lignin Model Compounds Using a Heated Micro-Reactor

David Robichaud, Mark Nimlos, G. Ellison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Lignin is an important component of biomass, and the decomposition of its thermal deconstruction products is important in pyrolysis and gasification. In this chapter, we investigate the unimolecular pyrolysis chemistry through the use of singly and doubly substituted benzene molecules that are model compounds representative of lignin and its primary pyrolysis products. These model compounds are decomposed in a heated micro-reactor, and the products, including radicals and unstable intermediates, are measured using photoionization mass spectrometry and matrix isolation infrared spectroscopy. We show that the unimolecular chemistry can yield insight into the initial decomposition of these species. At pyrolysis and gasification severities, singly substituted benzenes typically undergo bond scission and elimination reactions to form radicals. Some require radical-driven chain reactions. For doubly substituted benzenes, proximity effects of the substituents can change the reaction pathways.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationReaction Pathways and Mechanisms in Thermocatalytic Biomass Conversion II: Homogeneously Catalyzed Transformations, Acrylics from Biomass, Theoretical Aspects, Lignin Valorization and Pyrolysis Pathways
Subtitle of host publicationGreen Chemistry and Sustainable Technology
EditorsM. Schlaf, Z. C. Zhang
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5100-64481


  • gasification
  • lignin
  • micro-reactor
  • pyrolysis
  • reaction mechanisms
  • unimolecular decomposition


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