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Unravelling the mechanisms of microwave pyrolysis of biomass

Robinson, John; Binner, Eleanor; Vallejo, Daniel Beneroso; Perez, Nidia Diaz; Al Mughairi, Khalid; Ryan, John; Shepherd, Benjamin; Adam, Mohamed; Budarin, Vitaliy; Fan, Jiajun; Gronnow, Mark; Peneranda-Foix, Felipe


John Robinson

Daniel Beneroso Vallejo

Nidia Diaz Perez

Khalid Al Mughairi

John Ryan

Benjamin Shepherd

Vitaliy Budarin

Jiajun Fan

Mark Gronnow

Felipe Peneranda-Foix


This study uses empirical observations and mass transfer simulations to establish a new mechanism for microwave pyrolysis of biomass. Experiments were conducted on cellulose and hemicellulose, using microwave equipment that could vary the observed heating rate. No microwave-absorbing additives were used. At high heating rates it is shown categorically that microwave pyrolysis can significantly reduce the pyrolysis temperatures for hemicellulose and cellulose, but when microwave heating is used to deliver a low heating rate the pyrolysis behaviour is identical to that obtained with conventional heating. Dielectric properties are shown to vary by over an order of magnitude depending on the heating rate. The implications of heating rate on mass transfer and phase behaviour are developed and discussed within the paper, with liquid-phase water identified as a key driver for the observed differences in the microwave pyrolysis process. This is the first study in microwave pyrolysis that is able to reconcile microwave heating phenomena against simple and well-understood mass transfer and phase equilibria effects. As a result, a number of processing strategies have emerged with the potential to use microwave heating to enable more selective pyrolysis and bio-oils with more targeted quality than has been possible with conventional approaches.


Robinson, J., Binner, E., Vallejo, D. B., Perez, N. D., Al Mughairi, K., Ryan, J., …Peneranda-Foix, F. (2022). Unravelling the mechanisms of microwave pyrolysis of biomass. Chemical Engineering Journal, 430(Part 3), Article 132975.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 15, 2021
Publication Date 2022-02
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 16, 2022
Journal Chemical Engineering Journal
Print ISSN 1385-8947
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 430
Issue Part 3
Article Number 132975
Keywords Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering; General Chemical Engineering; Environmental Chemistry; General Chemistry
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Unravelling the mechanisms of microwave pyrolysis of biomass; Journal Title: Chemical Engineering Journal; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.