Alkaline earth metal ions accelerate the breaking of cellulose bonds and control the distribution of products in the pyrolysis of lignocellulose to biofuels and chemicals. Here, the activation of cellulose via magnesium ions was measured over a range of temperatures from 370 to 430 ⁰C for 20 to 2000 milliseconds and compared with activation of cellulose via calcium, another naturally-occurring alkaline earth metal in lignocellulose materials. The experimental approach of pulse heated analysis of solid/surface reactions (PHASR) showed that magnesium significantly catalyzes cellulose activation with a second order rate dependence on the catalyst concentration. An experimental barrier of 45.6 ± 2.1 kcal mol-1 and a pre-factor of 1.18 x 1016 (mmol Mg2+ / g CD)-2 * s-1 was obtained for the activation of α-cyclodextrin (CD), a cellulose surrogate, for catalyst concentrations of 0.1 to 0.5 mmol Mg+2 per gram of CD. First principles density functional theory calculations showed that magnesium ions play a dual role in catalyzing the reaction by breaking the hydrogen bonds with hydroxymethyl groups and destabilizing the reacting cellulose chain, thus making it more active. The calculated barrier of 47 kcal mol-1 is in agreement with the experimentally measured barriers and similar to that for calcium ion catalysts (~50 kcal mol-1).
Supplementary information for "Activation of Cellulose with Alkaline Earth Metals"