Evaluating the Effect of Potassium on Cellulose Pyrolysis Reaction Kinetics

Anna Trendewicz, Robert Evans, Abhijit Dutta, Robert Sykes, Daniel Carpenter, Robert Braun

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99 Scopus Citations


This paper proposes modifications to an existing cellulose pyrolysis mechanism in order to include the effect of potassium on product yields and composition. The changes in activation energies and pre-exponential factors due to potassium were evaluated based on the experimental data collected from pyrolysis of cellulose samples treated with different levels of potassium (0-1% mass fraction). The experiments were performed in a pyrolysis reactor coupled to a molecular beam mass spectrometer (MBMS). Principal component analysis (PCA) performed on the collected data revealed that cellulose pyrolysis products could be divided into two groups: anhydrosugars and other fragmentation products (hydroxyacetaldehyde, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, acetyl compounds). Multivariate curve resolution (MCR) was used to extract the time resolved concentration score profiles of principal components. Kinetic tests revealed that potassium apparently inhibits the formation of anhydrosugars and catalyzes char formation. Therefore, the oil yield predicted at 500°C decreased from 87.9% from cellulose to 54.0% from cellulose with 0.5% mass fraction potassium treatment. The decrease in oil yield was accompanied by increased yield of char and gases produced via a catalyzed dehydration reaction. The predicted char and gas yield from cellulose were 3.7% and 8.4%, respectively. Introducing 0.5% mass fraction potassium treatment resulted in an increase of char yield to 12.1% and gas yield to 33.9%. The validation of the cellulose pyrolysis mechanism with experimental data from a fluidized-bed reactor, after this correction for potassium, showed good agreement with our results, with differences in product yields of up to 5%.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-63820


  • Cellulose
  • Kinetics
  • MBMS
  • Potassium
  • Pyrolysis


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