Business research news Return to previous page
Article Released Sat-19th-July-2008 10:25 GMT
Contact: Mohamad Abdullah Institution: Universiti Sains Malaysia
 Recovery of Green and Healthy Antioxidant from Palm Oil Mill Waste

This research from USM enables valuable carotenes to be recovered from polluting palm oil mill effluent, thus creating a cheap source of carotenes. The global market for carotenoids is at USD 1 billion, rising by 2.9 per cent annually.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect our cells against the effects of free radicals. Antioxidant substances include beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. Carotenes possess anti-cancer properties for preventing certain types of cancer diseases, enhance immunity, prevent blindness and skin disorders, as well as to protect against toxins, colds, flu and infections. The benefits of carotenes are shown in Figure 1 (download file). World Health Organization considers vitamin A deficiency to be a public health problem in more than half of all countries and particular beta-carotene is the most important vitamin A precursor in human nutrition.

Carotenes can be found in yellow, orange, and green leafy fruits and vegetables. These can be carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantalouporangee, , winter squash and etc. as shown in Figure 2 (Download file). The demand for carotenes is high but carotenes preparations derived from extraction of vegetables are expensive due to high cost of raw materials. Since palm oil mills generate abundance of palm oil mill effluent (POME), carotenes can be recovered from the waste. POME are predominantly organic in nature and are highly polluting as shown in Figure 3.

Malaysia is basically an agricultural country and the major polluting industrial effluents have been from agro-based industries, which is palm oil industry. About 3 tonnes of POME was produced for every tonne of oil extracted in an oil mill. In 2007 alone, 15.8 milllion tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) have been produced, resulting in 47.4 million tonnes of POME. 284,000 tonnes of oil can be extracted from POME along with recovery of 140,000 kg of carotenes. If the POME is discharged untreated, for 47.4 million tonnes of POME, the amount of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) produced is 1.185 million tonnes which is equivalent to the waste generated by 64,931,500 citizens of the country (assuming each citizen produce 18.25 kg of BOD every year).

The global market for carotenoids is at USD 1 billion which rise annually by 2.9 per cent. The market value of natural carotenes is about RM6000 per kg. By treating POME accordingly, a 60 tonne FFB/hr palm oil mill can generate RM 5.52 M per year from carotenes recovery and for whole Malaysia the gross income generate from recovery of carotenes is about RM 852 M per year (Figure 4). This creates an opportunity for the palm oil millers to have a side income.

Carotenes can be recovered from POME, a readily available raw material and it is a breakthrough in POME wastewater treatment as no similar invention has been reported. Through this research, a downstream processing technology for converting POME into value added natural product, carotene is developed. Organic-aqueous extraction is used to retrieve oil from POME and adsorption chromatography approach is further adopted to recover the carotenes contained in the oil. This is in line with the world awareness towards creating a clean and healthy environment by using green technology, where waste is changed into wealth. Figure 5 shows the extraction of oil and carotenes recovery process.

This research creates a new and cheap source to attain carotenes. The utilization and reuse of agricultural waste into commercial value added product indirectly solve the environmental problem. Carotenes can be applicable as natural compounds in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

The whole process is a sustainable development for palm oil industries (Figure 6) where the pollution potential of POME which is oil and grease are removed for carotenes recovery and the remaining POME is water and solids which are non-hazardous. The remaining solids can be easily converted to organic fertilizer and the water can be recycled back for the palm oil mill usage. The organic fertilizer can be used for plantation and provides many benefits to the cultivation of oil palm.

In conclusion, this research changes waste into gold by incorporating the zero-discharge concept. The wastes produced are converted into products with high commercial values. It also gives positive impact to the public by solving environmental problem besides giving value added products.


Papers on this research published in Journals and presented at Conferences

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D. Mashitah (2007) Recovery of oil and carotenes from palm oil mill effluent (POME), Chemical Engineering Journal, 141 (2008) 383-386.

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D. Mashitah (2007) Adsorption kinetics and thermodynamics of β-carotene on silica based adsorbent, Chemical Engineering Journal, Communicated

A.L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D.Mashitah, Recovered Oil from Palm Oil Mill Effluent and Separation of Its Carotene by Adsorption Chromatography, International Conference on Environment 2006 (ICENV 2006), 13-15 November 2006, Penang, Malaysia.

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D.Mashitah, Adsorption of β-carotene from hexane solution on synthetic adsorbent, 12th Asian Chemical Congress, Scientific Session-Physical and Theoretical Chemistry (PTC), 23-25 August 2007, Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D.Mashitah, Optimization of Extraction of Oil and Carotenes from Palm Oil Mill Effluent Through Factorial Design, 21st Symposium of Malaysian Chemical Engineers (SOMChE), 12-14 December 2007, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia.

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D.Mashitah, Conversion of Available Nutrient Contents of Palm Oil Mill Effluent and Empty Fruit Bunch Ash Into Organic Fertilizer, National Postgraduate Conference on Engineering, Science and Technology, 31 March 2008, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Perak, Malaysia.

A. L. Ahmad, C. Y. Chan, S. R. Abd Shukor and M. D.Mashitah, (2008) Separation of oil and carotenes from palm oil mill effluent (POME) by adsorption chromatography with silica based adsorbent, 12th Asian Pacific Confederation of Chemical Engineering Congress, 4-6 August 2008, Dalian, China.


Pilot Plant Studies for Membrane Based Treatment of Palm Oil Mill Effluent, Yayasan Felda
Recovery of Oil and Carotenes from Palm Oil Mill Effluent, Short Term USM
Green And Healthy Antioxidant From Palm Oil Mill Waste, Yayasan Felda

Silver Medal
19th International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition 2008 (ITEX 2008), organized by Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Malaysia and Malaysian Invention and Design Society (MINDS) 9-11 May 2008, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre
Product Title: CAROTOX: Green and Healthy Antioxidant from Waste


Biodata of Prof. Abdul Latiff Ahmad

1995 - Start Commencement of Service in USM
2002 - Associate Professor
2006 - Professor
Current Post - Dean of School of Chemical Engineering
Specialization - Membrane Technology, Wastewater Treatment, Separation Processes


1974 – 1979 Sekolah Kebangsaan Beranang, Selangor
1980 – 1984 Sek. Men. Khir Johari Beranang, Selangor
1985 - 1987 College of Preparatory Studies(KPP)

1987-1990 University of Wales, Swansea, UK
B. Eng in Chemical Engineering

1990-1991 University of Wales, Swansea, UK
M.Sc in Chemical Engineering / Membrane Technology
Thesis Electrically Enhanced Membrane Separation Processes

1991-1995 University of Wales, Swansea, UK
PhD. in Chemical Engineering / Membrane Technology
Thesis Electrophoretic Filter Cake Release in Dead-End Membrane Separation Processes

Personal Recognition Awards
20 awards
Sanggar Sanjung Awards, Malaysian Excellence Scientist, Excellence Staff, Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, 20th Khwarizmi International Award (KIA) for Outstanding Research Achievement 2007, Leading Engineer of the World for 2006, Merit Reward

Research Product Recognition Awards
28 medals

Gold, Silver, Bronze
International Invention, Innovation, Industrial Design & Technology I-TEX, EXPO Science & Technology, International Exhibition Ideas, Inventions, New Products, IENA, International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products, Malaysia Technology Expo, International Exposition of Research and Inventions of Institutions of Higher Learning

130 International Journals
71 International Proceedings/Conferences
66 National Proceedings/Conferences

Associated files available for download

Download IconView/download the file 'Carotene.pdf.
Keywords associated to this article: carotenes, palm oil mill effluents
Create Account...