Coupled Structural and Kinetic Model of Lignin Fast Pyrolysis

Abraham J. Yanez, Pradeep Natarajan, Wenjun Li, Ross Mabon, Linda J. Broadbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Lignocellulosic biomass is a promising feedstock for renewable fuels and chemical intermediates; in particular, lignin attracts attention for its favorable chemical composition. One obstacle to lignin utilization and valorization is the unknown chemical mechanism that gives rise to the complex product distributions observed upon deconstruction. Among possible deconstruction chemistries, fast pyrolysis is promising due to its short residence time, thus enabling high-volume production. However, the chemistry is inherently complex, thereby hampering the creation of detailed kinetic models describing pathways to specific low molecular products. To this end, we created a detailed kinetic model of lignin decomposition via pyrolysis comprised of 4313 reactions and 1615 species based on pathways suggested by pyrolysis of model compounds in the literature. Using a rule-based reaction network generation approach, a pathways-level reaction network is proposed to predict the evolution of macromolecular species and the formation of various low molecular weight products identified from experimental studies. This reaction network is coupled to a structural model of wheat straw lignin via a kinetic Monte Carlo framework to simulate lignin fast pyrolysis. The mass yields of and speciation within four commonly observed fractions, viz., light gases, an aqueous phase containing water and small oxygenates, char, and a highly complex aromatic fraction, are compared to an experimental report of a putatively similar biomass source. Additional capabilities of the model include the time-resolved prediction of volatilization profiles and the evolution of the molecular weight distribution, which may assist in efforts to valorize lignin to a higher degree than that achieved by current approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1822-1830
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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