Wood Science and Technology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 123–137 | Cite as

Iron-catalyzed oxidation of wood carbohydrates

  • John A. Emery
  • Herbert A. Schroeder


Douglas-fir and red oak wood meal, cellulose, and an 0-acetyl-4-0-methylglucuronoxylan were exposed to finely divided iron powder under conditions favorable for rusting. Analyses of the wood meal and polysaccharides following exposure indicated that rusting iron causes a decomposition of all wood constituents. Cellulose was oxidized in the presence of rusting iron to form an oxycellulose which was predominantly reducing in character. Direct depolymerization of cellulose and xylan also occurred. The deterioration was favored by an acidic environment, contrary to earlier reports that the primary degradation mechanism is alkalidependent. An iron-catalyzed oxidation of wood constituents is theorized to occur as a result of free-radical production associated with ferrous ion oxidation in the presence of organic compounds. The free radicals produced lead to the formation of hydrogen peroxide which allows Fenton-type reactions to occur.


Cellulose Polysaccharide Acidic Environment Degradation Mechanism Iron Powder 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Emery
    • 1
  • Herbert A. Schroeder
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forest ScienceTexas A & M UniversityCollege Station
  2. 2.Department of Forest and Wood SciencesColorado State UniversityFort Collins

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