Levoglucosan, a tracer for cellulose in biomass burning and atmospheric particles

B. R.T. Simoneit, J. J. Schauer, C. G. Nolte, D. R. Oros, V. O. Elias, M. P. Fraser, W. F. Rogge, G. R. Cass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1140 Scopus citations


The major organic components of smoke particles from biomass burning are monosaccharide derivatives from the breakdown of cellulose, accompanied by generally lesser amounts of straight-chain, aliphatic and oxygenated compounds and terpenoids from vegetation waxes, resins/gums, and other biopolymers. Levoglucosan and the related degradation products from cellulose can be utilized as specific and general indicator compounds for the presence of emissions from biomass burning in samples of atmospheric fine particulate matter. This enables the potential tracking of such emissions on a global basis. There are other compounds (e.g. amyrones, friedelin, dehydroabietic acid, and thermal derivatives from terpenoids and from lignin- syringaldehyde, vanillin, syringic acid, vanillic acid), which are additional key indicators in smoke from burning of biomass specific to the type of biomass fuel. The monosaccharide derivatives (e.g. levoglucosan) are proposed as specific indicators for cellulose in biomass burning emissions. Levoglucosan is emitted at such high concentrations that it can be detected at considerable distances from the original combustion source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • 1,6-Anhydro-β-D-glucopyranose
  • Aerosols
  • Biomarker tracers
  • Cellulose
  • Smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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