Thermal decomposition of model compound of algal biomass

Sidra Jabeen, Zhe Zeng, Mohammednoor Altarawneh, Xiangpeng Gao, Anam Saeed, Bogdan Z. Dlugogorski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This contribution investigates thermal decomposition of leucine, as a representative model compound for amino acids in algal biomass. We map out potential energy surface for a wide array of unimolecular and self-condensation reactions operating in the decomposition of leucine. Decarboxylation and dehydration of leucine ensues by eliminating CO2 and –OH, respectively, from the –COOH group attached to the α-carbon. The molecular channel for deamination involves cleavage of NH2 from α-carbon of leucine. The activation energies for direct elimination of CO2, NH3, and H2O from a leucine molecule lie within 20.7 kJ/mol of each other. Activation energies for these decomposition pathways reside below the bond dissociation enthalpy of H–C(α) of 323.1 kJ/mol. The decarboxylation, deamination, and dehydration pathways, via radical-prompted pathways, systematically require lower energy barriers, in reference to closed-shell reaction corridors. Detailed computations at the CBS-QB3 level provide the Arrhenius rate parameters for the unimolecular and bimolecular reactions, and standard enthalpies of formation, standard entropies, and heat capacities for all the products and intermediates. A kinetic analysis of gas-phase reactions, within the context of a plug-flow reactor model, accounts qualitatively for the formation of major products observed experimentally in the thermal degradation of the condensed-phase leucine. Among notable N-containing species, the model predicts the prevailing of NH3 over HCN and HNCO, in addition to corresponding appreciable concentrations of amines, imines, and nitriles. Our detailed kinetic investigation illustrates a negligible contribution of the self-condensation reactions of leucine in the gas phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-710
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Chemical Kinetics
Issue number9
Early online date3 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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