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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Thermal Decompositions of the Lignin Model Compounds: Salicylaldehyde and Catechol


The nascent steps in the pyrolysis of the lignin components salicylaldehyde ( o-HOC6H4CHO) and catechol ( o-HOC6H4OH) were studied in a set of heated microreactors. The microreactors are small (roughly 1 mm ID × 3 cm long); transit times through the reactors are about 100 μs. Temperatures in the microreactors can be as high as 1600 K, and pressures are typically a few hundred torr. The products of pyrolysis are identified by a combination of photoionization mass spectrometry, photoelectron photoion concidence mass spectroscopy, and matrix isolation infrared spectroscopy. The main pathway by which salicylaldehyde decomposes is a concerted fragmentation: o-HOC6H4CHO (+ M) → H2 + CO + C5H4═C═O (fulveneketene). At temperatures above 1300 K, fulveneketene loses CO to yield a mixture of HC≡C-C≡C-CH3, HC≡C-CH2-C≡CH, and HC≡C-CH═C═CH2. These alkynes decompose to a mixture of radicals (HC≡C-C≡C-CH2 and HC≡C-CH-C≡CH) and H atoms. H-atom chain reactions convert salicylaldehyde to phenol: o-HOC6H4CHO + H → C6H5OH + CO + H. Catechol has similar chemistry to salicylaldehyde. Electrocyclic fragmentation produces water and fulveneketene: o-HOC6H4OH (+ M) → H2O + C5H4═C═O. These findings have implications for the pyrolysis of lignin itself.

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