Science & Technology

WU raises crude palm oil grade by more than tenfold, from animal feed to cosmetic grade

Walailak University has joined hands with research network partners to raise the production levels of the community’s palm oil mills. An innovation stimulates ripe palm fruit with microwaves and gasification, improving the resulting oil from feed grade to cosmeceutical grade. This is the first discovery of the process in both Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mudtorlep Nisoa is a lecturer at Walailak University's School of Science as well as head of the research laboratory in Plasma Science and Electromagnetic Waves. His work is associated with the Food Technology and Innovation Center of Excellence and Functional Materials and Nanotechnology Center of Excellence (FuNTech).  He and a research team with members from WU’s Plasma Science and Electromagnetic Waves Laboratory, Kasetsart University’s Oil Palm Center of Excellence, Nonthaburi Technical College’s Mechanical Department, Sangarun Palm Oil Factory, Phang Nga Province under the support of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Walailak University Science and Technology Park, the Thailand Research Fund, and the Agricultural Research Development Agency (public organization) (ARDA), collaborated to research and develop technology for crude palm oil production from conventional methods. Such methods include roasting by firewood kiln and stimulation by microwaves in combination with heat from a gasification stove. This technology could help communities improve palm oil quality from animal feed grade at 20 - 30 baht per kilogram to cosmeceutical grade at 100 – 1,000 baht per kilogram. It is considered the first community palm oil mill in both Thailand and Southeast Asia to have such technology, multiplying the value of crude palm oil by a factor of 10.  More importantly, it was found that the extracted palm oil contains vitamins A and E, which can be further developed into health supplements and cosmetics.

A team has been conducting this research since 2013. It is now at a successful stage because they are able to raise the level of crude palm oil production. This changes animal feed grades with a Deterioration of Bleachability Index (DOBI) value below 1 and free fatty acids higher than 10% to a premium grade DOBI value higher than 2.4 and with a lower free fatty acid content of 2.8%. Additionally, new technology can reduce the production time by half and increase the production capacity from 2 tons per day to 4 tons per day.

At present, research network partners including Sangarun Palm Oil Factory, Walailak University Science and Technology Park, and the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology will cooperate to develop the learning center. Its goal will be to upgrade the crude palm oil quality of community palm mills in the south from feed grade to health supplement and cosmeceutical grades. It will create added value for oil palm growers and community palm oil factories and also enables sustainable solutions to future crises involving falling palm prices.

“This research is considered practical research creating new knowledge and is able to make change at the level of the social foundation. These results on palm oil production process improvements could help communities improve their living " Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mudtorlep Nisoa said.

Mr. Pairot Putong, Managing Director, Sangarun Palm Oil Ltd., says that the technology of crude palm oil production stimulated by microwaves with the heat from gasification stoves improves small palm plantation owner living by helping them gain more income. For the factory side, using "drying" technology to replace the firewood stove is an environmentally friendly method. This research offers an effective, sustainable agricultural solution and increases the country's competitiveness in drying technology for economic crops with shells such as palm, rice, longan, and betel nut etc.


Rewirtten from Thai by Uraiwan Angkanawisut