ITS Students Build Battery from Palm Bunch Waste

9
ITS Students build battery from palm bunch waste
The team from ITS Chemistry Department carrying their prize, after winning second place in the 2021 Palm Oil Research Competition. (Photo: IO)

Surabaya, IO – A team from the Department of Chemistry, Institute Technology 10 Nopember (ITS), Surabaya, consisting of Cininta Nareswari and Muhammad Salman Al Kahfi and led by Wahida Annisa Ermadayanti, scored a brilliant achievement in the 2021 Student Level Palm Oil Research Competition, winning second place in the final hybrid competition held in Bogor, last Friday (27/8/2021). Their research dealt with using empty oil palm fruit bunches as a support material for electrocatalysis.

According to Wahida, this material is particularly appropriate for metal-air batteries, namely a battery that uses oxygen as the cathode and metal as the anode. “Metal air batteries generally use platinum metal, which has the disadvantage of being limited in availability and expensive,” she explained, in the press release received by Independent Observer, Wednesday (1/9/2021).

Cininta Nareswari presents the research methodology on the use of unused palm fruit bunches as battery raw material. (Photo: IO)

Furthermore, together with her teammates, this Blitar-born student agreed to replace the platinum used in metal-air batteries with manganese dioxide (MnO2). She argues that this material can cover the shortcomings of platinum given its more affordable price and has good catalytic properties.

However, she continued, the use of MnO2 also has a drawback, namely its low surface area. “That is why it is necessary to add carbon in the form of reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO) from palm oil empty fruit bunches,” she said.

Wahida said that obtaining rGO carbon begins with drying the waste of oil palm empty fruit bunches. Then, the delignification process is carried out to obtain lignin extract from the raw material. This stage continues by synthesizing the obtained lignin into carbon. “Don’t forget to do a characterization test to find out whether the carbon produced is in the form of rGO carbon,” she added.

Since rGO carbon has good conductivity properties, it can conduct electric current as an electrocatalytic support material in batteries. After that, the resulting rGO carbon will be composited with MnO2 to cover the lack of MnO2 and obtain a material with a high surface area and electrocatalytic properties. Finally, said Wahida, the composites obtained will be tested for their electrochemical activity, using the cyclic voltammetry (CV) method.

Discussing the advantages of the research conducted by her team, the girl from Surabaya explained that her team’s product was derived from empty oil palm fruit bunches, which are composed of lignin biomass waste besides coconut shells. Lignin is a waste that is difficult to degrade. So, according to her, the use of empty palm oil fruit bunches waste helps reduce waste that is hard to get rid of while helping create environmentally-friendly energy.

Considering that her research is rich in benefits, Wahida and her team hope that in the future, this research can continue, to develop ready-to-use batteries with economic value. One of the efforts is to add variations in the ratio of carbon rGO and MnO2 in electrochemical experiments to get the best material ratio applied in metal-air batteries. She also hopes that her research can be tested using the linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) method to discern the electron transfer in the sample.

(from above) Cininta Nareswari, Muhammad Salman Al Kahfi, Wahida Annisa Ermadayanti, and the jury during the final question and answer session of the 2021 Palm Oil Research Competition. (Photo: IO)

In the end, on behalf of her team, this 2017 student expressed her gratitude to her supervisors, Endang Purwanti Setyaningsih and Randy Yusuf Kurniawan, who had provided a lot of input and assistance. She also advised ITS students to actively channel their ideas by participating in oil palm research competitions in the coming year.The Oil Palm Research Competition itself is a competition held regularly every two years by the Palm Oil Plantation Fund Management Agency (BPDPKS). Not only at the student level: lecturers are also given space to develop in the competition. (*/est)