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KMUTT’s researchers developed “Integrated Industrial Bio-Fuel and Bio-Chemical processes” for transforming biomasses and oil plants to highly valuable and sustainably free-of-waste products and chemicals supporting the transition to Carbon Neutrality.
Upon the changes in energy consumption and the mutual agreement of the Global Community to solve the global warming issue which is a key reason causing climate change. Therefore, it was announced that all countries must be subject to carbon neutrality.
Recently, Thailand declared its position to support the clean energy policy and net-zero carbon dioxide emissions to be achieved within 2065 – 2070. This is regarded as a significant agenda of the world and Thailand’s milestone in energy strategy. It also renders the business sector to accelerate the adjustment of their energy consumption plan and production process, e.g., coal-fired power production gradually converts to the adoption of renewable and alternative energy.
Currently, the majority in the transport sector consumes gasoline and diesel fuels but the replacement of combustion engines by electric vehicles will definitely cause gradual requirement of these fuels. Diesel and gasoline can efficiently blend with biofuels (fuels derived from biomass) in the proportion stipulated by the public sector. However, from 10-20 years from now, when combustion engine are obsolete and is replaced with electric vehicles (EVs), this will subsequently affect the relevant agricultural and industrial sectors.
Prof. Dr. Navadol Laosiripojana, Director of the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment (JGSEE) of King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and biomass & biofuel processing expert, stated that in the past 10 years, the government implemented the policy to increase the cultivation of sugarcane and palm, therefore, it was a great number of the biofuel production industry. However, as the global energy situation is stimulated by carbon neutrality and the emergence of the electric vehicle, the demand for bioethanol and biodiesel in the energy market would be decreased. Without proper preparedness, this directly affects all agriculturists. Therefore, to achieve the reduction of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, the government is necessarily required to prepare the interim policies and plans specifying what to do or which measures to be implemented to reduce impacts on the agricultural sector and biofuel industry.
“The series of research that we have been consecutively conducted refers to an attempt to add the values of vegetable oils and biomass derived from sugarcane from the initial research to solve the problem of fluctuating prices of transportation fuel to the research to support and seek how to apply bioethanol and biodiesel in the case of reduction thereof which cause impacts on agriculturists and biofuel production industry, therefore, the concept of transforming biomass and biofuels to highly valuable materials and chemicals. The series of projects completed in the past is the research and development on the conversion of biomasses and wastes from production processes in the agricultural and biofuel industry to fuels and highly valuable industrial-needed chemicals and functional materials, including the research and development of fundamental technology and prototype for oil plant industry to support the transition to bio-complex industry, etc. This integrates the expertise in chemical engineering, biotechnology between KMUTT and NSTDA.
In detail, the research working group attempts to seek the proper courses to add the values of raw materials and products from the oil plant industry, i.e., palm and coconut oils, to be transformed into highly valuable products according to the requirements of each industry, e.g., bio-lubricant, industrial detergents and solvents, functional materials, etc. where KMUTT and the networked entities continually act as the advisors and mutually conduct the research with the alliances in the industrial sector in the recent period”, said Prof. Dr. Laosiripojana.
Additionally, there are a series of research to transform bioethanol and sugarcane biomass into highly valuable products as well. Prof. Dr. Laosiripojana stated that “In addition to applying sugarcane in the productions of sugar, sweeteners, and ethanol, sugarcane biomass could be decomposed to extract cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. These 3 substances could be further transformed into various bio-materials and chemicals, e.g., degradable packaging, hydrogel, sorbent materials for specific applications, flame retardants, and anti-oxidant & anti-UV agents that could be mutually applied with plastic and foam products, etc.”
The aforementioned research has been conducted from 2011 under the main objectives of adding the values of agricultural scraps in the country and on an in-depth basis to discover efficient and low-cost biomass separation and transformation process suitable for biomass existing in Thailand according to the concept of creation of processes utilizing domestic biomass without waste in the future. This research was published in over 200 international journals and associated with the industrial sector and was available to develop any industrial requirements where the results were 3 internationally patented with the networked industries within the past 10 years.
As a result, in the year 2020, Prof. Dr. Laosiripojana was rewarded “Science and Technology Award”, in the type of individual, by the Thailand Toray Science Foundation, as a researcher determined to conduct the research on integrating transformation of agricultural raw materials to fuel with the production of highly valuable chemicals that, other than adding value to agricultural scraps, could enhance strength and competitiveness for the domestic industrial sector. These are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e., Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and; Goal 13: Climate Action.