Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Chemical Engineering


David Shonnard


The main objective of this research was to investigate pyrolysis and torrefaction of forest biomass species using a micropyrolysis instrument. It was found that 30-45% of the original sample mass remained as bio-char in the pyrolysis temperature range of 500 - 700˚C for aspen, balsam, and switchgrass. The non-char mass was converted to gaseous and vapor products, of which 10-55% was water and syngas, 2-12% to acetic acid, 2-12% to hydroxypropanone, 1-3% to furaldehyde, and 5-15% to various phenolic compounds. In addition, several general trends in the evolution of gaseous species were indentified when woody feedstocks were pyrolyzed. With increasing temperature it was observed that: (1) the volume of gas produced increased, (2) the volume of CO2 decreased and the volumes of CO and CH4 increased, and (3) the rates of gas evolution increased. In the range of torrefaction temperature (200 - 300˚C), two mechanistic models were developed to predict the rates of CO2 and acetic acid product formation. The models fit the general trend of the experimental data well, but suggestions for future improvement were also noted. Finally, it was observed that using torrefaction as a pre-curser to pyrolysis improves the quality of bio-oil over traditional pyrolysis by reducing the acidity through removal of acetic acid, reducing the O/C ratio by removal of some oxygenated species, and removing a portion of the water.

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