ITS students create bioavtur using rice husks

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From left to right: M Ridlo Mumtazy, Sekar Tri Wulan and Mabrur Zanata, the originator of bioavtur with rice husks. (photo: IO/Prive. Doc)

Surabaya – Indonesia ran a deficit of 0.9 million kiloliters of crude oil-based aviation turbine fuel (avtur) in 2014. There have been several attempts to replace the fossil fuel with bio-avia­tion turbine fuel (known as “bioavtur”), made from palm oil. However, palm oil bioavtur made from is considered not cost-effective as a result high palm oil prices.

In an attempt to resolve this prob­lem, three students from the Novem­ber 10 Institute of Technology (ITS) searched for a more efficient way of producing the fuel. Conventionally, palm oil is distilled using SiO2 (silica) as a catalyst. However, this method re­sults in only 36 percent of the volume of palm oil yielding bioavtur. “Not only is the catalyst expensive but the results are meager,” reported Mabrur Zanata, head of the research group.

As a result, the researchers came up with the idea of using ash from burned rice husks. According to Mabrur, the total production of grain every year in Indonesia is 70.87 million tons and rice husks contains up to 90 percent silica.

The process was not without its challenges, however, as the students from the chemical engineering depart­ment admitted it took a while to extract silica from the husk. “First we had to activate it using chloride acid, then we had to remove impurities through cal­cination,” explained Mabrur.

They then had to impregnate the silica with nickel. “Thus, we ended up with a catalyst,” said the student from Bogor. The catalyst was then combined with palm oil in various ra­tios at a temperature of 300 and 400 degrees Celsius. “Our best result pro­duced 45.17 percent bioavtur using a 3 percent ratio of silica to palm oil,” continued Mabrur.

The results were presented at the International Seminar on Science and Technology 2018, on August 9. Mabrur said they would attempt to perfect the process by experimenting using cata­lyst ratios of 7 and 9 percent.

The research obtained funding from the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (Kemenristek­dikti) through its Student Creativity Program (PKM). The three Master’s De­gree students were also invited to at­tend the prestigious National Student Science Week (Pimnas) event, in late August, to be held in Yogyakarta. (ITS)