Palm Oil Waste is Transformed into Fuel Using Neutrons and Clay with Unique Properties

Updated: Jun 27

LIP Public Relations, Serpong Indonesia is currently experiencing an energy shortage due to depleting energy resources, while electricity consumption is rising in tandem with the country's growing population and rapid development. The Indonesian government is aiming for a 20 percent biodiesel (B20) blend of biofuels in fuel oil, which will be gradually expanded to B100.

Palm oil has a high biomass energy potential in Indonesia. The food and cosmetics industries continue to dominate the use of oil palm, with waste being used only as compost or simply burned. The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) is conducting research on empty fruit bunches from oil palm trees in order to get more than 60% biofuels as liquid chemical fuels. A catalytic thermal mechanism is used in the process.

"We created a catalytic approach that exploits the unique features of neutrons to boost the conversion process from palm oil biomass waste to high-value biofuels," said LIPI Research Center for Chemistry researcher Indri Badria Adilina. She said that neutrons aid in his understanding of chemical reactions.

This researcher, who holds a doctorate from Chiba University in Japan, discovered a catalyst that is made of a renewable element called clay, which is abundant in nature. "Clay's usage in biofuel manufacturing has been patented by us. In Indonesia, there are several types of clay, including bentonite, which we employ "Indri, the 2013 winner of the LOreal-UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science, stated.

She mentioned that bentonite is employed as an absorbent in the purification of cooking oil. "It has yet to be used as a catalyst. Bentonite, on the other hand, plays a crucial function in chemical reactions by converting the heavy molecules in palm oil into light hydrocarbon molecules, which are used to manufacture fuels like gasoline and diesel "she stated She owns a patent on clay's usage in biofuel production.

Through the Newton Fund scheme, she was able to do research at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source facilities, which are run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council in Didcot, Oxfordshire, England. "The majority of these neutron sources are located in Europe, while none are currently available in Asia. Although the Indonesian National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) has this facility, its energy is so low that it cannot be used in this investigation "she continued.

Indri's research also improves on the research process used by the Research Center for Chemistry earlier. "Biomass contains a lot of oxygen, thus it can't be burned directly. We employ a bentonite catalyst to lower the oxygen level, resulting in a biofuel with a low oxygen level that may be used as a fuel like gasoline and diesel "she clarified

Indri's research, which he conducted with other researchers from the University of Indonesia, became a pioneer in Indonesia and the Southeast Asian region, earning him the ISIS Impact Award 2019 in the Economic Category of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, United Kingdom Research and Innovation. She went on to say, "This prize is an endeavor to strengthen the ability of Indonesian researchers in the use of neutrons."

Indri, who has been with LIPI since 2005, believes that her research will have a wider impact than just in the lab. "I hope a large-scale study will be conducted to attain zero waste palm oil waste and true societal sustainability," she said.