Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Crocker

Second Advisor

Dr. John Selegue


Fast pyrolysis, the rapid thermal decomposition of organic material in the absence of oxygen, is a process that can be used to convert biomass into liquid fuels and chemicals. When performed at the micro-scale, pyrolysis is useful for characterizing biomass structure, as well as determining the pyrolysis products that can be generated from specific biomass feedstocks. Indeed, microscale pyrolysis coupled with on-line analysis of the pyrolysis vapors by GC/MS, so-called pyrolysis-GC/MS (Py-GC/MS), is a technique that can be used to characterize the structure and composition of the various components of lignocellulosic and microalgal biomass based on their pyrolysate distributions. Pyrolysates produced also provide insight into the range of products that can be expected when biomass feedstocks are subjected to thermal decomposition processes.

This dissertation focuses on the Py-GC/MS analysis of lignocellulosic biomass such as sorghum and Scenedesmus sp. microalgae, in addition to high-lignin feedstocks such as walnut shells, coconut shells, olive pits and peach pits. The differences in the pyrolysate distributions among these biomass types are correlated with differences in the structure and composition of the biopolymers, mainly cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, present in the biomass. Py-GC/MS analysis of lignin extracted from endocarp feedstocks is also emphasized. In addition to biomass and extracted lignin, sinapyl (S) and coniferyl (G) alcohol have been analyzed by Py-GC/MS in order to understand the relationship between the corresponding pyrolysates and sinapyl/coniferyl ratios of lignin present in lignocellulosic biomass.