News & Media

2022

February

Monash-Industry Palm Oil Research Platform (MIPO) of Monash University Malaysia successfully organized the 2nd E-Symposium on Sustainable Transformation of Plant-based Oils and Wastes: Towards Circular Economy, Health & Well Being (2nd E-SSTPOW), on 22-23 February 2022. This virtual symposium is organized in collaboration with the Malaysian Institute of Chemistry and the University of Malaya.

Malaysia is endowed with natural resources such as agricultural lands and forests that provide plant oils and biomass wastes. A small percentage of agricultural waste is recycled, with the remainder ending up in landfills or aquatic life. So, there is much room to work with agricultural waste management. In Malaysia, the central portion of agricultural waste comes from the palm oil sector, which lacks sustainability because of inadequate waste management. The industrial use of agricultural wastes and plant oils aligns perfectly with the principles of Responsible Care and is an important part of green chemistry and sustainability. Plant-oil-based products have been used for decades because of their beneficial properties. Plant oils such as palm oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and rapeseed oil are used in various industries, regularly developing new uses. They are mass-produced industrially in large quantities for different applications, such as surfactant, oleochemicals, emollients, spray adjuvants and solvents, bio-lubricants.

This e-symposium was spearhead by the Deputy Director of MIPO, ChM Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan (in pic) of Monash University. The e-symposium provided a platform for engagement and collaboration between university researchers, industry, and government agencies. The symposium participants are including academic staff and postgraduate students of public and private universities, government agencies, and industry members who shared their challenges, experience, and achievements that lead to needing research collaboration. The e-symposium has been a platform to promote the plant oils and biomass waste industry and research at both domestic and international levels. The local and international expert speakers were from the Malaysian Oil Scientists’ and Technologists’ Society (MOSTA), Sime Darby Plantation Research Sdn Bhd, Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) Watch, Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), A*STAR, university researchers and industries.The plant oils and biomass waste can be used as bioenergy sources, produce sustainable eco-products and bio-agriculture products, and produce high-value building blocks chemicals that move towards the circular economy and benefit human health and well-being, according to the experts' insightful presentations and lengthy discussions during the two-day sessions.

This symposium also served as a venue for collaboration between industry, universities, and government agencies, with the goal of developing new initiatives that are ingrained in academic research cultures. The symposium materials are found below:

  1. The abstract book can be found here
  2. Symposium videos of
    1. Day 1, Sessions 1-https://youtu.be/2DsYgSSItSs
    2. Day 1, Sessions 2- https://youtu.be/PQUHVfSy_MU
    3. Day 2, Sessions 1- https://youtu.be/bbMXGa53cQA
    4. Day 2, Sessions 2-https://youtu.be/P98FHMs5NK4
JANUARY

MIPO Webinar Series 1/2022

Webinar 1/2022: Challenges and Opportunities for Good Labour Practices and Worker Rights in the Malaysian Palm Oil Sector from 2-3 pm Tuesday 25 January 2022.

The first MIPO webinar of 2022 featured 2 panelists presenting different perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for worker rights in the Malaysian palm oil sector. Kamini Visvananthan from Insaight Consultancy described the major challenges facing migrant workers in the palm oil sector and discussed some of the national and international mechanisms which have been developed in response to these challenges. Nadiah Ahmad from the School of Arts and Social Science described the challenges to oil palm labour rights from an academic research perspective.

Both speakers highlighted the need for bottom-up approaches to be used in conjunction with top-down approaches to tackle these labour issues. Research platforms such as MIPO can also play an important role, for example by developing methods to measure the impact of initiatives that aim to improve worker rights. Academic institutions can also provide a platform for dialogue on the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia, and to help ensure that local voices and priorities are reflected in the actions taken to address these issues.

For enquiry, please email Dr. Pushpamalar Janarthanan, the Webinar Chairperson and Deputy Director of MIPO at mum.mipo@monash.edu

2021

NOVEMBER

MIPO Webinar Series 2/2021

MIPO successfully organized the webinar based on  Food & Health on 8th Nov 21 at 10.00 am via  Zoom. Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Augustine Ong Soon Hock, President of Malaysian Oil Scientists’ and Technologists’ Society (MOSTA), presented on “Palm oil is better than olive oil? ” and  Ir. Qua Kiat Seng from Monash University, presented on “Is saturated fat unhealthy?”. The webinar had 155 participants.  The recorded video of the session of MIPO Webinar 2/2021 is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8zt2JQAh34.

For enquiry, please email Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan, the Webinar Chairperson and Deputy Director of MIPO at mum.mipo@monash.edu

AUGUST

MIPO Collaborative Webinar 2021

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC)  in collaboration with MIPO, invited Monash University undergraduate and postgraduate students for a Facebook Live Webinar. The webinar was based on the Malaysian Palm Oil – Nutritional and Culinary Advantages- on 13th Aug 21 at 2.30 pm via Facebook Live webinar. Ms Sarafhana Dollah presented on “Nutritional Attributes of Malaysian Palm Oil, Ms Anna Zulkifli talked on “The Palm Oil Controversy: Should we Boycott Palm Oil” and Dr Lee Yee Ying presented on “Modifications of Edible Fats and Oils”. The webinar had 59 participants and if you have missed the insightful talk, you may watch the webinar at the link here: https://www.facebook.com/126414860886475/posts/1725381407656471/

For enquiry, please email Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan, the   Webinar Chairperson and Deputy Director of MIPO at mum.mipo@monash.edu

Ir. Qua Kiat Seng, a MIPO Fellow, has been invited by the CEO Action Network (CAN) to speak at the 'Plantation Round Table Series' forum that is aimed to solicit feedback and recommend future policy to help Malaysia achieve net zero emission by 2050.

Catch him live on the 4th August 2021 from 3.15 pm to 4.30 pm. Those interested can register here (it's free) https://mport2.peatix.com/.

JULY

MIPO Webinar Series 1/2021

MIPO, in collaboration with the Malaysian Institute of Chemistry has organized the webinar based on  Food & Health on 6th July 21 at 2.00 pm via Zoom. Mr Bryan See presented on “The potential of palm phytonutrients in nutraceutical/ health foods” and Dr Lee Yee Ying presented on “ Modifications of Fats and Oils to Improve its Functional Properties”. The webinar had 73 participants. If you have missed the  knowledgeable talk, you may watch the  the recorded video session of the MIPO Webinar 1/2021 is at the link https://youtu.be/TPqMmQAWnjU

For enquiry, please email Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan, the   Webinar Chairperson and Deputy Director of MIPO at mum.mipo@monash.edu

FEBRUARY

Monash-Industry Palm Oil Research Platform (MIPO) of Monash University Malaysia and the Environment and Green Chemistry (EGC) Section of the Malaysian Institute of Chemistry organized a virtual symposium entitled “E-Symposium on Green Transformation of Agro Wastes, 2021 (E-SGTAW, 2021)”, which was held on the 23-24th Feb 2021. Given the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the E-SGTAW 2021 held entirely as a virtual event. This symposium is organized in collaboration with the National University of Malaysia, University of Malaya, University Tunku Abdul Rahman and Green Technology Section of Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers.

Every year, Malaysia produces approximately 80 million tonnes of biomass from various agricultural commodities. This biomass can be sustainably sourced, and according to the National Biomass Strategy 2020, the biomass available could create RM 30 billion in additional gross national income and reduce 12% of the national carbon emissions. The biomass industry can contribute to the Circular Economic, in line with the agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Malaysia, biomass can be derived from oil palm, timber, sugar cane, bamboo, coconut shell and fibre, rice husk, sago, cocoa and other agricultural plantation byproducts.  The industries could trigger the biomass-based new technologies or products demand.The research institution could research to achieve the desired outcome that is currently useful for the nation. Strategic coordination was required to enhance the collaboration among the biomass feedstock owners, research institution, and technology providers.

The symposium was materialized to provide a platform for engagement and collaboration between university researchers, industry and government agencies. The spearhead of symposium is the Deputy Director of MIPO, ChM Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan (in pic) of Monash Univesity. A total of 70 participants including academic staffs and postgraduate students of public and private universities, government agencies and industry members shared their research findings, challenges, experience and achievements. In the symposium, it was identified as the challenges and opportunities in biomass research and technology development. It has been a platform to promote the biomass industry and biomass research at both domestic and international levels. The experts' presentation and a lengthy discussion during the two day's sessions made it undeniable that biomass feedstock can be used as bioenergy sources, produces sustainable eco-products, and bio-agriculture products as biofertilizer animal feed and aqua feed, and could produce high-value building block chemicals. This symposium also acted as a platform bridging the industry, university and government agencies that could trigger collaboration forming new ventures that embedded in research culture at universities. The symposium materials found below:

  1. Abstract book can be found here
  2. Symposium videos of
  3. Day 1, Sessions 1-  https://youtu.be/jzo-ULXAmw0
  4. Day 1, Sessions 2-  https://youtu.be/Q8MuTikM3eI
  5. Day 1, Sessions 3- https://youtu.be/qJ8azoLNoIU
  6. Day 1, Sessions 4- https://youtu.be/BEhKYTxhoDI
  7. Day 2, Sessions 1- https://youtu.be/lwc5pwF6CsQ
  8. Day 2, Sessions 2- https://youtu.be/NgLmSBPaBV4
  9. Day 2, Sessions 3- https://youtu.be/gS4ld-OR3HA
  10. Day 2, Sessions 4- https://youtu.be/9Wi5mSR7Zv0
JANUARY

Creating a sustainable, integrated nanomaterial complex derived from lignocellulosic biomass

The valorization of lignocellulosic biomass into nanomaterial has been a promising route in the conversion of low value waste to high value products. Several nanomaterials such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), lignin-containing cellulose nanocrystals (LCNC) and nanolignin (NL) has been successfully synthesized from oil palm empty fruit bunch (EFB) in our past researches. To further improve the sustainability of the products mentioned in commercial scale, these nanomaterials productions can be integrated to form a nanomaterial complex. Process optimization, interplant and intraplant water integration, heat and resources can be done to achieve maximum profit. The life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle optimization (LCO) can be applied to assess the environmental impact and reduce the overall cost simultaneously. Further information on this research can be found in our recent publications in (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.129277), (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enmm.2020.100398), (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jece.2020.104058)

Contact Dr Irene Chew for research collaboration and postgraduate opportunities.

Lignocellulosic Biomass

2020

SEPTEMBER


One of MIPO research fellows, Prof Dato Dr. Khalid Abdul Kadir, has been conferred the "NutraChampion Award" at the 2020 NutraIngredients-Asia Awards.

This special award recognizes Prof. Khalid’s long contribution and passion in doing research and clinical studies, particularly in the area of diabetes, palm oil and tocotrienol.

Check out his latest publication here.

Cellulose structure controls the enzymatic breakdown of cellulosic biomass to sugar

In Malaysia alone, there are over 100 million tonnes of oil palm biomass produced every year. The biomass can be converted to sugar enzymatically for the production of valuable chemicals, but the process is limited by long reaction time and low yield. Recently, through a new computational framework developed by our research group, for the first time we successfully predicted how the heterogeneity in cellulose crystallinity and chain lengths across structural layers of cellulose particles with different morphologies heavily influences the processing dynamics.

The computational framework, named the Multi-Layered Population Balance Model (ML-PBM), sets the ground for future improvements in cellulose processing technologies, whereby one can now rationally design and optimize the process based on fundamental insights. Further information on this research can be found in our recent publications (do: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ces.2019.05.028, https://doi.org/10.26180/5f6b082bdafb5)

Contact Dr Joseph Ho for research collaboration and postgraduate opportunities.

APRIL

Torrefied oil palm biomass improves gasification

Gasification represents an attractive pathway to generate syngas from oil palm biomass. In this work, we have successfully introduced torrefaction to enhance the oil palm biomass properties prior to gasification. A range of oil palm biomass including empty fruit bunches, mesocarp fibres, and palm kernel shells, has been studied using CO2 and steam as the gasifying agents.

The friability, hydrophobicity, surface area, and pore size of the oil palm biomass were significantly improved after torrefaction. We have also carried out in-depth analyses on the syngas lower heating values, efficiencies of gasification, carbon conversion and cold gas. For more information, check out our most recent publications in Biomass and Bioenergy (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2020.105487) and Journal of the Energy Institute (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joei.2019.05.010).

Contact Dr Estee Yong for research collaboration and postgraduate opportunities.

JANUARY

A newly patented microencapsulation technology

Recently, our research group has pioneered a microencapsulation method using solid-stabilized emulsion systems (or ‘Pickering emulsions’) for the encapsulation and controlled-delivery of sensitive oil-soluble actives. The microencapsulation technology allows greater control over the interfacial properties between oil and water, thus improving the stability and release-profile of the encapsulated actives. The microencapsulation process is industry-scalable, cost-effective and it does not use any harmful chemicals.

The technology has recently been patented and it can be applied for the encapsulation of palm phytonutrients such as tocotrienols, carotenoids, sterols, squalene, and etc. For more information, check out our most recent publications in Food Hydrocolloids (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodhyd.2020.105659) and Carbohydrate Polymers (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2020.117110)

Contact Prof Chan Eng Seng for commercialization opportunities, research collaboration or postgraduate opportunities.

Cost-effective production of enzymatic biodiesel

Biodiesel production from low-quality feedstocks containing high free fatty acids using acid catalyst is problematic because acid catalyst is corrosive and it could cause safety hazards. In this work, we have successfully converted a simulated low-quality feedstock containing high free fatty acids using a low-cost lipase. The process can be operated with little energy input and a small amount of alcohol and lipase, thus making it environmentally-friendly and economically-feasible.

The process can readily be applied for biodiesel production from many low-quality palm-based feedstocks such as sludge palm oil, palm fatty acid distillates, palm-pressed fibre oil and used cooking oil. For more information, please see our recent publication in Fuels:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fuel.2020.119266

Contact Prof. Chan Eng Seng or Dr Song Cher Pin for research collaboration and postgraduate opportunities.

2019

AUGUST

Healthful lipids from palm oil and palm kernel oil

Consumption of fats and oils is linked to the development of several life-threatening diseases. However, it is not possible to eliminate fats and oils from our diet. Recently, we have demonstrated the feasibility of using an enzymatic process to produce healthful lipids (i.e. diacylglycerol, medium-and-long chain triacylglycerol) from palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Using this process, the healthful lipids can be produced in a mild, green, and environmentally friendly conditions. The synthesized lipids were found to have the potential in managing obesity issues. We have recently published research and review articles on the production and applications of healthful lipids in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2019.1650001) and Food Research International (https://doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.10.022).

Contact Dr Lee Yee Ying for postgraduate opportunity and research collaboration


Courtesy call on YB Teresa Kok, Minister of Primary Industries, by IChemE Malaysia Board and POPSIG members. Exchanged views on the challenges facing the palm oil industry and highlighted the efforts by IChemE POPSIG to address some of the challenges. Briefed YB about the iniatives by Monash Malaysia to improve sustainability in palm oil production via education, research and training.
SYNC - THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING RESEARCH NEWSLETTER (Issue 3, August 2019)

Title: How to Establish Research Collaboration with Industry?


2018

Healthful lipids from palm oil and palm kernel oil

Red palm oil is gaining interest in the food and nutraceutical industries due to its potential health benefits. The presence of a high amount of non-glyceride components and extended hydrocarbon backbone causes chemical instability and makes the oil susceptible to oxidative deterioration. Oxidation decreases the nutritional value, produces toxic substances, unpleasant taste, and odour.

Encapsulating red palm oil in polymeric beads or microcapsules could protect its nutritional benefit; increases its stability, and; allowing the targeted release of the oil in the intestine. The encapsulation method is simple and can be performed under mild conditions. For more information, check out our related publications in J.Food Engineering,  (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2018.03.008), Applied Sciences (https://doi.org/10.3390/app6060170) and Carbohydrate Polymers (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2005.12.003).

Contact Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan for research collaboration or postgraduate opportunities