Competing reactions limit levoglucosan yield during fast pyrolysis of cellulose
Efforts to understand the reaction mechanisms of cellulose pyrolysis have been stymied by short reaction times and difficulties in probing the condensed phase of cellulose intermediate products. Using time-resolved yields of both volatile and non-volatile products of pyrolysis, we demonstrate that cracking reactions generate anhydro-oligosaccharides while subsequent reactions produce levoglucosan from these anhydro-oligosaccharides. Eventually, cracking of anhydro-oligosaccharides is eclipsed by levoglucosan-producing reactions. These reactions compete with other reactions that produce light oxygenates and non-condensable gases. The relative reaction rates in this competition limit levoglucosan yields from cellulose pyrolysis to approximately 60 wt%.