UTM Library has organised an online research-sharing session on October 19th, 2022 in conjunction with Research Week 2022 via Facebook and YouTube with the goal of sharing knowledge and expertise among researchers to support continuous innovation and sustainable development of scientific research.

The session, moderated by Dr. Nur Hafizah Ab Hamid of the Faculty of Chemical and Energy Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), invited Prof. Ir. Dr. Nor Aishah Saidina Amin, one of UTM’s eminent researchers, to talk about “From Lab to Prototype Research: Challenges and Opportunities in Biomass Processing Technology within the Circular Bioeconomy.”

Prof. Nor Aishah explained that heaps of empty fruit bunches are plentiful at the country’s 320 palm oil mills. Some are pelletised and used as fuel to generate electricity, while the majority are mulched or, worse, burned. This produces CH4 and CO2, two well-known greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment. Lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose have been identified as significant and valuable chemicals found in the empty fruit bunch. As a result, the concept of producing advanced biomaterials from waste was developed. However, a pre-treatment method to isolate the components and convert them to valuable advanced biomaterials is required.

She highlighted that when compared to conventional pre-treatment methods, OzBiONY®, a novel biomass pre-treatment system, reduces the time and effort required to pre-treat 100 g of powdered empty fruit bunch (EFB) per batch. OzBiONY® uses an ozonolysis process in a well-mixed reactor to degrade lignin and isolate the cellulose-rich fraction known as OzyCELL without compromising its natural properties. OzyCELL could be converted into a variety of downstream biomaterials, including carboxymethyl cellulose (BiOZCMC) and cellulose nanocrystals (BiOz-CNC), for use in a variety of applications.

Prof. Nor Aishah, who is also the Head of Chemical Reaction Engineering Group (CREG), UTM went on to say that future development of OzBiONY® will include finalising the technology’s design and cost, seeking funders and investors, customising the quality of OzyCELL based on customer requirements, lowering transportation and utility costs, and increasing the palm oil mill’s revenue. Notably, OzBiONY® has accomplished various local and international collaborations, publications, intellectual properties, talents, funding and honors.

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