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Various wood fragments buried in sediments under anaerobic conditions for from 450 yr to approximately 8 Myr have been examined by solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance. Cellulose and other carbohydrates, the major components of Holocene wood, have been shown to be gradually hydrolyzed or otherwise lost under the conditions of burial. Lignin structures, however, are preserved relatively unchanged and become concentrated by difference as the carbohydrates disappear. Thus, a fragment of coalified wood isolated from a Miocene brown coal was found to be still composed of approximately 75% lignin and 25% cellulose. On the basis of our observations, we suggest that coalification of woody tissue progresses directly from lignin to coal and that such coalification may be retarded until most of the cellulose disappears. ?? 1981.
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Nuclear magnetic resonance studies of ancient buried wood-I. Observations on the origin of coal to the brown coal stage