Radicals and molecular products from the gas-phase pyrolysis of lignin model compounds: coniferyl alcohol, theory and experiment

Mohamad Barekati-goudarzi, Lavrent Khachatryan, Dorin Boldor, Mengxia Xu, Eli Ruckenstein, Rubik Asatryan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Coniferyl alcohol (CFA) is one of lignin’s main building blocks and a relevant model compound. Two aspects of CFA pyrolysis are studied in the current work to gain insight into the molecular mechanism of lignin thermolysis: (i) the nature of intermediate radicals generated from vacuum pyrolysis of CFA, and (ii) the product distribution from pyrolysis of CFA dispersed into the gas phase. Low temperature matrix isolation electron paramagnetic resonance (LTMI-EPR) spectroscopy is employed to investigate the intermediate radicals associated with gas phase low-pressure pyrolysis of CFA. An anisotropic EPR spectrum of radicals trapped at liquid nitrogen temperature was registered throughout the studied temperature range (400–700 °C) characterized by high g-value (≤ 2.0100), and broad EPR line-width (~13.5–13.0 G) prescribed to a mixture of O-centered radicals produced from cleavage of O−CH3 and O−H terminal bonds. Thermal annealing of frozen radicals suggested a major contribution of methylperoxyl (CH3O2) radicals produced by the liberated CH3 and trace amounts of oxygen. The pyrolysis of CFA, for the first time, was conducted in a dispersed, gas-phase conditions to minimize the heterogeneous secondary reactions mediated by particle surfaces typical for condensed-phase pyrolysis in conventional reactors. Several unique products including polyhydroxylated derivatives of mandelic acid and some carboxylic compounds were identified in addition to those normally produced during the conventional pyrolysis - coniferyl aldehyde, vanillin (and its oxidized form homovanilic acid), eugenol and its isomers. A comprehensive analysis of product formation mechanisms, particularly the pathways for generating abundant hydroxylated compounds is performed and the role of trace oxygen is studied at the wB97XD and M06-2X hybrid density functional theory levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105413
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis
Early online date11 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Model compound
  • Atomization
  • Pyrolysis
  • Gas phase
  • Radical
  • EPR
  • DFT


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