Polymer pyrolysis and oxidation studies in a continuous feed and flow reactor: Cellulose and polystyrene

Byung Ik Park, Joseph W. Bozzelli, Michael R. Booty, Mary J. Bernhard, Karel Mesuere, Charles A. Pettigrew, Ji Chun Shi, Staci L. Simonich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A dual-zone, continuous feed tubular reactor is developed to assess the potential for formation of products from incomplete combustion in thermal oxidation of common polymers. Solid polymer (cellulose or polystyrene) is fed continuously into a volatilization oven where it fragments and vaporizes. The gas-phase polymer fragments flow directly into a second, main flow reactor to undergo further reaction. Temperatures in the main flow reactor are varied independently to observe conditions needed to convert the initial polymer fragments to CO2 and H2O. Combustion products are monitored at main reactor temperatures from 400 to 850 °C and at 2.0-s total residence time with four on-line GC/FIDs; polymer reaction products and intermediates are further identified by GC/MS analysis. Analysis of polymer decomposition fragments at 400 °C encompasses complex oxygenated and aromatic hydrocarbon species, which range from high-molecular-weight intermediates of ca. 300 amu, through intermediate mass ranges down to C1 and C2 hydrocarbons, CO, and CO2. Approximately 41 of these species are positively identified for cellulose and 52 for polystyrene. Products from thermal oxidation of cellulose and polystyrene are shown to achieve complete combustion to CO2 and H2O at a main reactor temperature of 850 °C under fuel-lean equivalence ratio and 2.0-s reaction time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2584-2592
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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