JAKARTA – A researcher from the Sumatra Institute of Technology (ITERA) has managed to expand the versatility of oil palm by utilizing its waste as the raw material to produce palm paper that can be used to detect the freshness of foods.
DR I Putu Mahendra, the researcher of the Institute’s faculty of chemical engineering in Lampung province, and his team conducted the research on the special-purpose paper from oil palm waste with the team of cellulose carbon material (CCM). “The oil palm trees have many chemical components, which include Cellulose and Lignin, popularly known as lignocellulose,” he said.
The lignocellulose has many benefits as it can be used to make a number of products, such as paper, textile raw material, and medical applications with certain modifications. “Basically, there is no certain criteria of the oil palm waste to be used for the production of the paper. All parts of the oil palm trees can be used as a source of lignocellulose,” he said.
According to him, their research was driven by the fact that there is a huge amount of oil palm trees in Indonesia as the world’s largest producer of palm oil. But the palm trees are not yet maximally utilized. “Usually, the palm trees just pile up as waste in the oil palm plantations. Meanwhile, food consumers need to know directly and visually the freshness of food stuffs they want to buy. The palm paper can help them to show the food freshness by just sticking it on the food,” he said.
He said that at first stage in their research, they process the palm waste to get lignocellulose, which will then undergo a chemical modification through oxidation process by using a chemical material called tempo.
The next step of their research was a cooperation with the team of Universitat de Girona to get lignocellulose nanofibers in gel form. It is then combined with natural color, which is purple cabbage extract. It is selected because it contains anthocyanin that has the capacity to detect some changes, including change of pH and acid. The mixture of gel and the purple cabbage extract is then printed into film like paper, and stored in closed packaging.