Malaysians pioneer technique
December, 2015 in Issue 4 - 2015
Researchers from Universiti Kuala Lumpur-Malaysian Spanish Institute (UniKL-MSI) have been working on developing a palm-oil based magneto-rheological fluid (MRF) valve – an invention that could be used in place of the conventional servo valve in hydraulic systems.
The team comprises final-year students Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Yunus, Raihan Badri, Termizi Muhamad and Ruziah Bolhasan, and UniKL-MSI lecturers Muhamad Husaini Abu Bakar, Ahmad Razlee Abdul Kadir, Halina Hassan, Mohd Faizal Abu Talib, Norhalimatul Sadiah Kamaruddin and Sharmiwati Mohammed Sharif.
In the project, which began in 2013 with funding from Majlis Amanah Rakyat under its Research and Innovation Grant Scheme, palm oil was used as a carrier fluid in the MRF valve system.
“European researchers used corn oil and sunflower oil in previous studies. As Malaysia is a leading palm oil producer, we thought it would be a good idea to explore the potential of palm oil in industrial applications,” says project team leader Husaini.
In this innovative take on the MRF valve, palm oil is used in place of hydrocarbon oil as carrier fluid.
Referring to the MRF as a “smart fluid”, Husaini explains that its liquid state will transform to a near-solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field is applied.
“This enables the valve to be controlled intelligently without any moving parts to take into consideration, as would be the case in conventional valves,” he says.
The palm oil-based MRF valve’s high precision and compact size rank among its plus points. Additionally, it addresses many of the issues plaguing conventional valves, including friction and internal leakage.
Palm oil is an attractive substitute as it remains stable over a wide temperature range, has low viscosity and is biodegradable. Husaini is hopeful that this could be further developed as a greener option in the long run, as recycled palm oil could potentially be used for the MRF valve.
While a patent has been filed for this innovation, he says that further research is required to ensure the quality of palm oil-based MRF. The reliability of the mechanical devices to be used in an open environment should also be examined in detail.
Work on other devices
The palm oil-based MRF valve invention has won multiple awards, including gold medals at this year’s Invention, Innovation & Design Exposition organised by UiTM; the National Innovation and Invention Competition Through Exhibition organised by Politeknik Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah; and the International Engineering Invention & Innovation Exhibition organised by Universiti Malaysia Perlis.
“We are very proud to have our work acknowledged, particularly in a field that is quite new among Malaysians. The awards serve as motivation that this technology can pave the way for the future of the palm oil industry,” says Husaini.
He expressed gratitude to UniKL-MSI dean Prof Dr Abu Talib Othman for his support in initiating research in this field.
Using the palm oil-based MRF, the team is now working on mechanical devices such as damper, clutch and braking systems, underwater propulsion system and molecular dynamic simulation of particle suspension in palm oil.
It has also developed a non-Newtonion viscometer to study the effects of a magnetic field on fluid flow.
“This is pioneer work that explores the use of palm oil as the main material in mechanical devices. There are many aspects where advanced research is required, especially studies on fluid characteristics,” says Husaini, who hopes that interested agencies will join them in tapping into the potential of palm oil for industrial applications.
Source: Star Online, Aug 10, 2015
This is an edited version of the article.