Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



Lignocellulosic biomass is emerging as a sustainable resource for the production of alternative liquid fuels. As the need to lessen dependence on petroleum sources grows, lignocellulosic feedstocks are being investigated as a renewable, abundant source of energy. Chemical pulping processes include a high-lignin by-product, black liquor, which is already used for fuel in industry. Black liquor is burned to generate steam and electricity and to recover pulping chemicals. Currently, the thermochemical conversion of black liquor to liquid fuel is being researched at The University of Maine. In this black liquor research, an intermediate lignin-derived acid, muconic acid, and formic acid are forming. Formic acid has been integral in thermal deoxygenation (TDO) and fast pyrolysis studies at The University of Maine. TDO is the pathway by which neutralized carboxylic acids, which can be derived from lignocellulosic feedstocks, have been observed to condense and deoxygenate to produce cyclic and aromatic molecules. Since alkaline pulping chemicals present in black liquor neutralize acids to form salts, the salts can be studied using TDO and fast pyrolysis. Thermal decomposition products of sodium muconate and a mixture of sodium muconate and sodium formate, were analyzed using Py-GC/MS. This technique provides a qualitative understanding of the volatiles present after fast pyrolysis of muconate and muconate/formate mixtures. In this study, the optimal fast pyrolysis conditions for salt volatilization and decreased carbonaceous residues were found to be approximately 500°C with formate present. Major products identified were aromatics (indene, cresol, phenol, toluene, and other substituted benzenes), unsaturated hydrocarbon chains (C6-C9), cyclopentanones and cyclopentenones.