Samples of papers artificially (2 to 60 days) and naturally (10, 45, and 56 years) aged were studied by the Py-GC/MS method to identify decomposition products. Possible reaction scenarios for cellulose degradation were developed. One of the degradation products is acetic acid, which can (auto)catalyze the cleavage of cellulose β(1→4)-glycosidic bonds of cellulose polymer chains. However, during 20 s of Py-GC/MS analysis, temperatures of up to 300 °C did not significantly increase or modify the formation of decomposition products of paper components. At 300 °C, the amount of several cellulose decomposition products increased regularly depending on the number of days of artificial aging and natural aging, demonstrated mainly by the generation of 2-furancarboxaldehyde, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, and levoglucosan and its consecutive dehydration products. No correlation between the amount of lignin decomposition products and the time of aging was found when the pyrolysis was performed at 300 °C and 500 °C. Compounds present in the products of decomposition at 500 °C bear the imprint of the chemical composition of the sampled paper. Pyrograms taken at 300 °C using the Py-GC/MS method can give additional information on the changes in the chemical structure of paper during natural or artificial aging, mainly about the cleavage of β(1→4)-glycosidic bonds during aging.
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