Thermal decomposition mechanism of levoglucosan during cellulose pyrolysis

Xiaolei Zhang*, Weihong Yang, Wlodzimierz Blasiak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Levoglucosan (1,6-anhydro-β-d-glucopyranose) decomposition is an important step during cellulose pyrolysis and for secondary tar reactions. The mechanism of levoglucosan thermal decomposition was studied in this paper using density functional theory methods. The decomposition included direct CO bond breaking, direct CC bond breaking, and dehydration. In total, 9 different pathways, including 16 elementary reactions, were studied, in which levoglucosan serves as a reactant. The properties of the reactants, transition states, intermediates, and products for every elementary reaction were obtained. It was found that 1-pentene-3,4-dione, acetaldehyde, 2,3-dihydroxypropanal, and propanedialdehyde can be formed from the CO bond breaking decomposition reactions. 1,2-Dihydroxyethene and hydroxyacetic acid vinyl ester can be formed from the CC bond breaking decomposition reactions. It was concluded that CO bond breaking is easier than CC bond breaking due to a lower activation energy and a higher released energy. During the 6 levoglucosan dehydration pathways, one water molecule which composed of a hydrogen atom from C3 and a hydroxyl group from C2 is the preferred pathway due to a lower activation energy and higher product stability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2012


  • Cellulose
  • Density functional theory
  • Levoglucosan
  • Pyrolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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