A few teams of final year undergraduate students from the Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Science, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) had participated in the 6th International Biotechnology Competition and Exhibition (IBCEx) 2020 from 18th till 19th of December 2020.
The theme of the event was “Empowering Nations: Towards A More Sustainable Future” and there were four categories opened which were Environment/ Waste Treatment, Biofuel/ Renewable Energy, Green Building/ Green Technology and Biotechnology.
This international event which was organised by the School of Chemical and Energy Engineering, UTM Johor Bahru campus, was open to all undergraduate students across all sectors and academic backgrounds not only limited to bioprocess, biomedical, and bioengineering but also others with innovation related to the theme.
The innovations involved were judged under several criteria by a panel of judges among academicians and representatives from biotechnology companies. UTM biosciences students have won second place among four groups that participated in the Biofuel & Renewable Energy category. The project was led by Tan Li Teng together with Amos Yee Feng under the supervision of Dr. Mohd Farizal Ahmad Kamaroddin.
The aim of their project was to convert algal biomass waste scum at Sembrong Barat Water Treatment Plant into microalgae biodiesel production for sustainable energy. A microalgae pollution has become a global issue, and the phenomenon of harmful algal bloom (HAB) in drinking water sources has posed a severe water safety problem to local water supply systems. For example, there is a significant problem of freshwater algal bloom at Sembrong Barat Water Treatment Plant when the water level is below its designed capacity.
The water-treatment plants need to depend solely on the chemical flocculation method for the removal of unwanted microalgae biomass. However, the usage of chemicals over its limit is terrible for the environment and harmful for aquatic life. Consequently, a large amount of algal biomass scum which was considered as a common waste is disposed and specifically located in an empty lagoon daily.
Hence, with the concept of Trash to Treasure, they had proposed to utilise the waste algal scum as the primary source of crude algal fuel, which could be used as essential renewable energy in the future.
Congratulations to the team for winning the competition with a brilliant innovation!
Prepared by: Aimi Alina Hussin and Mohd Farizal Ahmad Kamaroddin