ReaxFF Study of the Oxidation of Lignin Model Compounds for the Most Common Linkages in Softwood in View of Carbon Fiber Production

A Beste, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY A, 118, 803-814 (2014).

DOI: 10.1021/jp410454q

Lignin is an underused but major component of biomass. One possible area of utilization is the production of carbon fiber. A necessary processing step is the stabilization of lignin fiber (typically in an oxygen environment) before high temperature treatment. We investigate oxidative, thermal conversion of lignin using computational methods. Dilignol model compounds for the most common (seven) linkages in softwood are chosen to represent the diverse structure of lignin. We perform molecular dynamics simulation where the potential energy surface is described by a reactive force field (ReaxFF). We calculate overall activation energies for model conversion and reveal initial mechanisms of formaldehyde formation. We record fragmentation patterns and average carbon oxidation numbers at various temperatures. Most importantly, we identify mechanisms for stabilizing reactions that result in cyclic and rigid connections in softwood lignin fibers that are necessary for further processing into carbon fibers.

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