I put some papers into a biscuit tin and put it over fire and baked it. Then I made a small hole at the top and saw yellowish smoke coming out. Any idea what the smoke could be?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to chemistry.stackexchange.com. Since you already took the tour all that is left to point you towards the help center if you want to learn more about how the site works. Your question is rather hard to answer, because there is a lot that can happen with paper in the heat. It may well get closed for being too broad. Please don’t let that discourage you from contributing more in the future. $\endgroup$ – Jan Nov 21 '15 at 20:51

What you've performed is, technically, "thermal decomposition of cellulose", or pyrolysis. During heating, there are large number of changes producing many different chemicals, so the smoke you saw was a mixture of different chemicals.

Pyrolysis is used to produce many industrial chemical, such as "wood alcohol" (methanol), and during gasoline shortages, to run internal combustion engines.


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  • $\begingroup$ As an addition, because the image of the answer above may (wrongly) lead to the perception wood gas generation were old and thus an obsolete technology in the automotive industry, see post WWII examples on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas_generator. $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Apr 5 at 19:30

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