Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer in the world with an area of 11 million hectares. Not surprisingly, Indonesia is one of the world’s largest palm oil exporting countries. With this fantastic amount of palm oil production, the palm oil biorefinery industry in Indonesia has become very important and has experienced rapid growth. But on the other hand, this has become a biomass trade-off, because the waste generated from the palm oil production process has also increased in terms of quantity. This is the background of the ITB researchers team, consisting of Dr. Tirto Prakoso ST, M.Eng., Dr.Ir. Isdiriayani, Hary Devianto ST, M.Eng., Ph.D., And Dr.Eng. Pramujo Widiatmoko ST, MT to utilize the palm oil waste.
Oil palm plantation are rich in carbon elements which are the result of atmospheric CO2 fixation. The main product of processing of palm fruit bunches is known as Crude Palm Oil (CPO). While the remaining products are empty fruit bunches (EFB), fiber and shells, as well as the kernel core (kernel) mostly end up being waste. “Is not waste, but other biomass products,” said Tirto when referring to the remaining products of the palm oil industry. The high hemicellulose, lignin and cellulose content of those biomass residues allows the extraction of the elemental carbon within it. The best option is to process it into nanocarbons so that it can be used to make supercapacitors for electric cars. So far commercial supercapacitors that have been spreaded on market, still using the base of precious metals so the price is high.
The extraction process begins by destroying the biomass then the hydrothermal carbonization process is carried out using ZnCl2 as an activator. After removing unwanted metal minerals (ash) two types of products will be found, namely bio-char and bio-oil. Some special treatment is needed until eventually it will be found graphene, activated carbon, and carbon nanotubes (CNT). Activated carbon is used as material to support the layer while graphene and Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) which have high electron transfer capability are used as materials added above the support layer. Supercapacitors with a capacity of 3 farads per gram have been successfully made in the first research project.
The yield obtained from dry biomass for this supercapacitor reaches 70 percent. With these satisfying results, the ITB researchers are seeking patent claims for their invention. In the future, this project will be focused on pursuing quantity because the supercapacitor used in the electric car is quite large based on the value of the farad needed. The added value which reaches 500 times compare to the initial value of the residual biomass of these palm oil industry to become a supercapacitor electrode is a promising business for the electronic component industry in Indonesia. Not even limited to be used for the electric car supercapacitors, in the future the researcher team of ITB’s lecturers hope that the solar cell industry and car window coating to be able to produce electricity which developed by the same technology.