Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Director

Patrick G. Hatcher

Committee Member

James W. Lee

Committee Member

Bala Ramjee

Committee Member

Sandeep Kumar


Evidence suggests that reactive oxygen species (ROS), largely generated through photochemical processes, are important in transforming the chemical composition of the large pool of terrestrially-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) exported from land to water annually. However, due to the challenges inherent in isolating the effects of individual ROS on DOM composition, the role of ROS in the photochemical alteration of DOM remains poorly characterized. The main focus of the studies within this dissertation aim to more thoroughly characterize the alterations to lignin, used as an analog for terrestrial DOM, resulting from reactions with ROS.

To investigate the possibility that the alteration of lignin, through reactions involving ROS, could lead to the production of compounds not recognized as having terrestrial origin, lignin-derived DOM was prepared from a sample of Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and used for a number of studies. Lignin-derived DOM was independently exposed to hydroxyl radical (OH) generated by Fenton reaction, singlet oxygen (1O2) produced using the photosensitizer Rose Bengal, and superoxide (O2− •) via stable potassium superoxide solution, under controlled laboratory conditions to accentuate how each ROS is responsible for the alteration of lignin. Advanced analytical techniques including high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS), were employed to characterize alteration to lignin taking place following various ROS treatments.

Results of these studies have shown distinct differences in the types of new compounds observed from exposure to each ROS as well as ROS reactivity. The alteration of lignin to compounds not typically associated with terrestrial DOM has been demonstrated upon exposure to ROS. It is also suggested that ROS could selectively react with different fractions of lignin like compounds based largely on oxygen content. Additionally, results indicate that partially oxidized lignin could react further with ROS to generate compounds resembling condensed aromatic-like compounds, previously believed to be primarily pyrogenic in origin, as well as alicyclic compounds commonly observed in marine DOM.





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