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Bioresour Technol. 2001 Sep;79(3):277-99.

Production of monomeric phenols by thermochemical conversion of biomass: a review.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Universit√© Laval, Sainte-Foy, Que, Canada.


Biomass is a renewable and alternative source for the production of fuels and chemicals. This paper provides a brief survey of lignin precursors as well as thermogravimetric and pyrolysis studies of lignin with special reference to the production of phenols. Thermogravimetric analysis provides information on pyrolysis kinetics while thermogravimetry in combination with mass or infrared spectrometers allowed a rapid characterization of the vapours produced by thermal treatment. Pyrolysis enabled even greater insight into the thermal behaviour of lignin. Pyrolysis of single, dimeric and trimeric model lignin compounds can determine the thermal stability of the intermediate compounds formed and the origin of the pyrolysis products. A free radical mechanism has been suggested as a major route during the early lignin degradation stages followed by a combined free radical and concerted pathway at elevated temperatures. Pyrolysis of lignin in the presence of catalysts as additives was investigated. Significant differences in terms of yields of pyrolysis products and phenolic compounds were observed. The addition of salts resulted in a high weight loss at low temperature and yielded more char than untreated wood. Some metal catalysts such as transition metals and metal oxides such as Fe2O3 and Cu exhibited a better activity in terms of selectivity for the degradation of lignin.

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