Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Lyubov Titova, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

N Aaron Deskins, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

David DiBiasio, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Michael T. Timko, Advisor




"The increasing global demands for materials and energy directly contributes to the devastating ecological, toxicological, and climate consequences currently observed. Biomass-derived energy and materials offers a sustainable option to meeting current needs and developing novel materials. Hydrothermal carbonization is a promising green platform to valorize biomass by forming Hydrochar, a carbon solid. Hydrothermal carbonization converts biomass using liquid phase water at elevated temperatures (180-350 °C), forming organic intermediates, which dehydrate and polymerize to form the solid material on time scales of several hours. Hydrochar shows promise for a wide variety of applications, including aqueous heavy-metal adsorption. The complexity of the hydrochar prevents reliable characterization, hindering a full understanding of how to optimize the material. The focus of this study was to develop spectroscopic methods better understand the material as it changes with reaction time (ex-situ). This study developed IR and Raman Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry (MS) methods. Hydrochars were prepared from glucose (a model for biomass) and were prepared at different reaction times between 3 and 24 hours to understand the formation of the material and how it matures under process conditions (180 °C, autogenous pressure). IR and MS identified hydroxyl and ketone functionalities and aliphatic, furanic, and aromatic moieties, and both techniques indicated decreasing hydroxyl and furan content and increasing methyl and aromatic content. The Raman spectra were consistent with aldehyde-functionalized 1- and 2-ring arenes and aldehyde-functionalized furans, and indicated increasing 2-ring arene content relative to 1-ring arenes. MS showed a significant increase in the aromatic to furan ratio, and MS confirmed the increase in 2-ring arenes relative to 1-ring arenes seen in the Raman. These spectroscopic methods are in good agreement and will allow for greater chemical information in the hydrochar, which will inform the link between material modification under process conditions and application performance."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





carbon material, characterization, spectroscopy