Xylem tissue from degraded wood and coalified logs or stems was examined by pyrolysis g.c.-m.s. to improve understanding of the coalification process. The pyrolysis data, when combined with solid-state 13C n.m.r. data for the same samples, show several stages of evolution during coalification. The first stage, microbial degradation in peat, involves the selective degradation of cellulosic components and preservation of lignin-like components. As coalification increases, the lignin structural units undergo a series of defunctionalization reactions. The first of these involve loss of methoxyl groups, with replacement by phenolic hydroxyls such that catechol-like structures are produced. As the xylem tissue is converted to subbituminous coal, the persistence of phenols and methylated phenols in pyrolysis g.c.-m.s. data of subbituminous coal suggests that the catechol-like structures are being converted to phenol-like structures. The ability to discern detailed changes in the chemical structural composition of a genetically and histologically related series of samples provides an ideal method for developing models of coal structure, especially that of low-rank coal. ?? 1988.
Additional publication details
Pyrolysis g.c.-m.s. of a series of degraded woods and coalified logs that increase in rank from peat to subbituminous coal