Transformation of lignocellulosic biomass to liquid carbon-based fuels requires rapid, low-cost processing made possible by high temperature and heterogeneous catalysts. Rapid thermal breakdown of biopolymers (i.e., pyrolysisi) produces a mixture of small oxygenated molecules (C2-C6) which can be further refined to gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. Cellulose decomposes at 400-600 deg C to yield 70 wt% condensable at optimal conditions; decomposition occurs through a the state of intermediate liquid cellulose.
The chemical transformation of cellulose is evaluated using advanced microreactor experiments combined with novel chemical detectors for evaluating the evolution of hundreds of organic products over 10-100 milliseconds. At low temperature, cellulose decomposes by slow chain-end decomposition. Above 467 deg C, cellulose begins to aggressively decompose by intra-chain scission.