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Structural properties of non-combustion-derived refractory organic matter which interfere with BC quantification

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David ManningORCiD


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Black carbon (BC), presenting the residue from incomplete combustion processes of fossil fuels and vegetation, has received special interest as a possible carbon sink in soils and sediments. In spite of this, there is still a need to develop accurate and comparable analytical protocols to determine the amount of BC stored in different environmental matrices and to characterise potentially interfering materials in the analysis of BC. Therefore in this study a melanoidin, a sample from the Green River Shale, a lignite and a bituminous coal were characterised by means of elemental analysis, thermogravimetry-differential scanning calorimetry (TG-DSC), pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) and 13C NMR spectroscopy. Thermal analysis (TG-DSC) indicated larger contributions of labile OM in the melanoidin and in the shale samples than in the lignite and the bituminous coal, although the coals showed an intense exothermal peak at temperatures higher than 550 °C. This behaviour is in agreement with high thermal recalcitrance of the latter and was also found in earlier studies of BC-rich material. Comparable to the latter, Py-GC/MS of the coals reveals considerable amounts of lignin-derived products. This and the similar thermal behaviour of both refractory materials aggravate their discrimination during BC-analysis. The pyrogram of the melanoidin reveals an important contribution of furanes and pyrane-like structures that derive from carbohydrates. NMR spectroscopy supports that those compounds are original constituents of the melanoidin rather than solely pyrolysis products. Considering that those compounds are typically formed during charring of N-containing biomass, their contribution to the BC structure should not be neglected if one seeks for a better understanding of BC structural properties. For the shale sample, both analytical pyrolysis and 13C NMR spectroscopy confirm a high contribution of long alkyl-C chains. Due to their high hydrophobicity such structures can stand chemical oxidation and their presence in soil and sediment samples can obscure BC quantification by those methods. This study indicates that present approaches for BC-identification that are based on the assumption of BC being mostly a highly condensed polyaromatic network, have to be taken with caution and modified in accordance with a more heterogeneous composition of BC containing considerable fractions of only partly charred biopolymers. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): de la Rosa Arranz J, González-Vila F, López-Capel E, Manning D, Knicker H, González-Pérez J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis

Year: 2009

Volume: 85

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 399-407

ISSN (print): 0165-2370

ISSN (electronic): 1873-250X

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jaap.2008.11.019


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