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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Chemical Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Paul J. Dauenhauer

Second Advisor

T.J. Mountziaris

Subject Categories

Catalysis and Reaction Engineering


With the rapid growth of world population and developing industries, the production of wastes has dramatically increased in the past decades. Due to environmental concerns and limited landfill space, the disposal of wastes has been subjected to strict regulations. Beneficial uses of wastes such as recycling/reuse, land applications, energy production, and resource recovery have been advocated greatly. This thesis presents the utilization of two types of solid waste: lignin and waste paper/plastic. Through thermochemical conversion, wastes can be converted to chemicals and energy. This aims at reducing the energy dependence on fossil fuels while achieving effective waste management. Lignin is the main byproduct from pulping and paper industry and is usually combusted to provide the heat for the pulping process. However, its poly-methoxylated phenylpropane structure makes lignin a potential natural source for phenolic and aromatic chemicals. Obtaining high yield of chemicals from lignin is a challenge due to its complex structure and unreactive nature. In this thesis, the pyrolysis of lignin extracted from maple wood and a β-O-4 oligomeric lignin model compound is presented. Advanced analytical techniques were utilized to obtain a comprehensive characterization of pyrolysis products. The results show that carbon concentrated solid char is the major pyrolysis product for both extracted lignin and β-O-4 oligomeric lignin model compound. Reaction chemistry is proposed based on a free radical reaction mechanism. Additionally, a new coal combustion technology utilizing Re-Engineered FeedstockTM (ReEF), was evaluated for pulverized coal combustion emission control. The ReEF consists of non-recyclable fibers/plastics and commercialized flue gas desulfurization (FGD) sorbent. This novel feedstock is combusted to produce energy while capturing the sulfur dioxide generated during coal combustion. It is demonstrated that up to 85% of sulfur dioxide reduction was achieved when co-firing coal with ReEF in a lab scale fluidized bed combustor. Through the kinetics study, combustion of waste fibers/plastics accelerates the sorbent sintering in ReEF which leads to a lower total sulfur uptake compared with pure FGD sorbent. However, the time of maximum reaction rate of sorbent sulfation is delayed in ReEF which indicates the ReEF can prevent the sorbent from early time sulfation. The application of ReEF will have positive impacts on the environment and society by supplementing coal combustion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing wastes that will go to landfill.