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Associate Professor of Chemistry
Wood Combustion … In contrast to petroleum, lignocellulosic biomass (wood) is considered to be a carbon neutral fuel because it takes in the carbon that it will give off. However, there can be negative consequences. Incomplete wood combustion gives rise to persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in our air and water streams. By elucidating the detailed mechanism for the formation of these pollutants during the incomplete combustion of wood, we aim to unearth a key mechanistic detail that could be used to minimize their formation. More specifically, we aim to evaluate the impact of the biological matrix of lignin and cellulose on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and dioxin formation from incomplete combustion of lignocellulosic biomass by employing both experimental and computational methods. The goals of our work are to (1) experimentally characterize incomplete combustion products with varying matrix additives, (2) computationally characterize cellulose decomposition and identify potential fragments that impact the conversion of lignin into dioxin, and (3) combine experimental and computational results to guide subsequent experiments and calculations.