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Pyrolysis is the degradation of complex materials caused by heat, in a low oxygen, inert atmosphere or a vacuum. Molecules cleave at their weakest points to produce smaller, volatile fragments called pyrolysate. This process differs from combustion, but can occur near to the site of combustion, when the oxygen has been used up by the fire.
From the Greek pyr, meaning fire, and lysis meaning loosing or 'to split'.

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