Influence of production variables and starting material on charcoal stable isotopic and molecular characteristics

Ascough, P.L., Bird, M.I., Wormald, P., Snape, C.E., and Apperley, D. (2008) Influence of production variables and starting material on charcoal stable isotopic and molecular characteristics. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72 (24). pp. 6090-6102.

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We present a systematic study on the effect of starting species, gas composition, temperature, particle size and duration of heating upon the molecular and stable isotope composition of high density (mangrove) and low density (pine) wood. In both pine and mangrove, charcoal was depleted in δ13C relative to the starting wood by up to 1.6‰ and 0.8‰, respectively. This is attributed predominantly to the progressive loss of isotopically heavier polysaccharides, and kinetic effects of aromatization during heating. However, the pattern of δ13C change was dependant upon both starting species and atmosphere, with different structural changes associated with charcoal production from each wood type elucidated by Solid-State 13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. These are particularly evident at lower temperatures, where variation in the oxygen content of the production atmosphere results in differences in the thermal degradation of cellulose and lignin. It is concluded that production of charcoal from separate species in identical conditions, or from a single sample exposed to different production variables, can result in significantly different δ13C of the resulting material, relative to the initial wood. These results have implications for the use of charcoal isotope composition to infer past environmental change.

Item ID: 18920
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9533
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2011 01:51
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 50%
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