In order to compare the catalytic activity of hydrothermally synthesized nano tin oxide particles with that of red mud (byproduct of Aluminum factory), HZSM5, K2CO3, the hazelnut shell was subjected to pyrolysis in the presence of these catalysts. The nano SnO2 particles were characterized by X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscope. The characterization results indicate that nano SnO2 particles with 3-4 nm were successfully synthesized by hydrothermal method. Effect of all catalysts on the yields of pyrolytic oil, gas and char was discussed in detail. The pyrolytic oils were further analyzed by GC-MS and FTIR techniques in order to reveal the different activity of catalysts used. The results indicate that the synthetic nano SnO2 particles make a more positive influence compared to the other catalysts. GC-MS and FTIR analysis of pyrolytic oils prove that product distribution and structure of the pyrolytic oil vary with the catalyst type. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.