Samples of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and nine species of whole biomass were pyrolyzed in sealed reactors. Very high charcoal yields (e.g., 40% from cellulose, 48% from Eucalyptus gurnrnifera) were obtained. Higher sample loading (sample mass per unit reactor volume) increased charcoal yield and the associated exothermic heat release and lowered the reaction onset temperature. These effects were induced by the vapor-phase concentrations of the volatile products, and not the system pressure. Addition of water catalyzed the reaction and increased the char yield. These observations suggest that charcoal formation is autocatalyzed by water, an initial pyrolysis product. When whole biomass was used as a feedstock, higher charcoal yields were obtained from species with high lignin and/or low hemicellulose content.
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