Her team received funding from the UK government Newton Fund, allowing access to the facilities and expertise at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source to develop their research into converting biomass waste into fuel.
In September 2018 the Indonesian government pledged to ensure all gas stations in Indonesia switch from diesel fuel to B-20 – a 20% biofuel blend, as part of a drive to reduce reliance on fossil fuels whilst limiting environmental and economic impact.
Palm oil is a vital ingredient in Indonesia’s food industry, but it is also valuable as an alternative to fossil fuels. The group’s research aims to establish a viable method of using palm oil biomass waste in place of the palm oil itself to meet government targets without impacting on the local food industry. The use of non-food biomass wastes offers the most readily implemented and low cost way to meet these targets, but significant advances in technology are required to convert this bulky, hydrophilic feedstock into high value biofuel.
Dr Adilina says, “Using neutron science we are trying to master the technology of biomass catalysis and establish whether bentonite clay, a renewable and abundant resource in Indonesia, could provide as a suitable catalyst support for the conversion of palm oil wastes into biofuel.”
The unique properties of neutrons are helping the researchers to understanding the interactions between the chemical compounds in biomass waste and the proposed catalyst, which gives important information for the catalyst design and optimisation strategies. There is an existing source of neutrons in Indonesia but it is limited and doesn’t have advanced techniques such as INS (inelastic neutron scattering) and QENS (quasi-elastic neutron scattering) that the team are using at ISIS. As a result there is limited expertise in Indonesia.
Indri says, “Both the knowledge we have gained and the networks we have established in neutron science will be brought back to Indonesia, opening up research using techniques that were previously unavailable. Indonesia is now able to use the full potential of instruments at ISIS due to the expertise gained at the facility, working alongside experts with 20 years of experience in the field, providing new insights into materials.”
The benefits aren’t just limited to the research itself. Most of the members of the research team are early career scientists and have been selected equally based on an outstanding scientific track record and vision for the research project. Having been awarded the Newton Fund at a starting stage of a career is very beneficial in shaping the future and scientific development of the research team.
Dr. Laksana Tri Handoko is the chairman of LIPI. He says, “LIPI aims to unite initiatives where research addressing global challenges also benefits local needs. In the short term the Newton fund has enabled us to access an international facility to understand how we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels without a negative impact on Indonesian society. In the longer term we have increased the expertise of the Indonesian scientific community allowing us to access the full potential of neutron science.”