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  1. Su MH, Azwar E, Yang Y, Sonne C, Yek PNY, Liew RK, et al.
    J Hazard Mater, 2020 09 05;396:122610.
    PMID: 32298865 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122610
    This study examined an aquaponic approach of circulating water containing ammonia excretions from African catfish grown in an aquaculture tank for bacterial conversion into nitrates, which then acted as a nutrient substance to cultivate lettuce in hydroponic tank. We found that microwave pyrolysis biochar (450 g) having microporous (1.803 nm) and high BET surface area (419 m2/g) was suitable for use as biological carrier to grow nitrifying bacteria (63 g of biofilm mass) that treated the water quality through removing the ammonia (67%) and total suspended solids (68%), resulting in low concentration of remaining ammonia (0.42 mg/L) and total suspended solid (59.40 mg/L). It also increased the pH (6.8), converted the ammonia into nitrate (29.7 mg/L), and increased the nitrogen uptake by the lettuce (110 mg of nitrogen per plant), resulting in higher growth in lettuce (0.0562 %/day) while maintaining BOD5 level (3.94 mg/L) at acceptable level and 100% of catfish survival rate. Our results demonstrated that microwave pyrolysis biochar can be a promising solution for growing nitrifying bacteria in aquaponic system for simultaneous toxic ammonia remediation and generation of nitrate for growing vegetable in aquaculture industry.
  2. Yek PNY, Liew RK, Osman MS, Lee CL, Chuah JH, Park YK, et al.
    J Environ Manage, 2019 Apr 15;236:245-253.
    PMID: 30735943 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.01.010
    Microwave-steam activation (MSA), an innovative pyrolysis approach combining the use of microwave heating and steam activation, was investigated for its potential production of high grade activated carbon (AC) from waste palm shell (WPS) for methylene blue removal. MSA was performed via pyrolytic carbonization of WPS to produce biochar as the first step followed by steam activation of the biochar using microwave heating to form AC. Optimum yield and adsorption efficiency of methylene blue were obtained using response surface methodology involving several key process parameters. The resulting AC was characterized for its porous characteristics, surface morphology, proximate analysis and elemental compositions. MSA provided a high activation temperature above 500 °C with short process time of 15 min and rapid heating rate (≤150 °C/min). The results from optimization showed that one gram of AC produced from steam activation under 10 min of microwave heating at 550 °C can remove up to 38.5 mg of methylene blue. The AC showed a high and uniform surface porosity consisting high fixed carbon (73 wt%), micropore and BET surface area of 763.1 and 570.8 m2/g respectively, hence suggesting the great potential of MSA as a promising approach to produce high grade adsorbent for dye removal.
  3. Yang Y, Liew RK, Tamothran AM, Foong SY, Yek PNY, Chia PW, et al.
    Environ Chem Lett, 2021 Jan 13.
    PMID: 33462541 DOI: 10.1007/s10311-020-01177-5
    Dwindling fossil fuels and improper waste management are major challenges in the context of increasing population and industrialization, calling for new waste-to-energy sources. For instance, refuse-derived fuels can be produced from transformation of municipal solid waste, which is forecasted to reach 2.6 billion metric tonnes in 2030. Gasification is a thermal-induced chemical reaction that produces gaseous fuel such as hydrogen and syngas. Here, we review refuse-derived fuel gasification with focus on practices in various countries, recent progress in gasification, gasification modelling and economic analysis. We found that some countries that replace coal by refuse-derived fuel reduce CO2 emission by 40%, and decrease the amount municipal solid waste being sent to landfill by more than 50%. The production cost of energy via refuse-derived fuel gasification is estimated at 0.05 USD/kWh. Co-gasification by using two feedstocks appears more beneficial over conventional gasification in terms of minimum tar formation and improved process efficiency.
  4. Liew RK, Azwar E, Yek PNY, Lim XY, Cheng CK, Ng JH, et al.
    Bioresour Technol, 2018 Oct;266:1-10.
    PMID: 29936405 DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2018.06.051
    A micro-mesoporous activated carbon (AC) was produced via an innovative approach combining microwave pyrolysis and chemical activation using NaOH/KOH mixture. The pyrolysis was examined over different chemical impregnation ratio, microwave power, microwave irradiation time and types of activating agents for the yield, chemical composition, and porous characteristic of the AC obtained. The AC was then tested for its feasibility as textile dye adsorbent. About 29 wt% yield of AC was obtained from the banana peel with low ash and moisture (<5 wt%), and showed a micro-mesoporous structure with high BET surface area (≤1038 m2/g) and pore volume (≤0.80 cm3/g), indicating that it can be utilized as adsorbent to remove dye. Up to 90% adsorption of malachite green dye was achieved by the AC. Our results indicate that the microwave-activation approach represents a promising attempt to produce good quality AC for dye adsorption.
  5. Lam SS, Yek PNY, Ok YS, Chong CC, Liew RK, Tsang DCW, et al.
    J Hazard Mater, 2020 05 15;390:121649.
    PMID: 31753673 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2019.121649
    Improving the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of biochar production is crucial to meet increased global market demand. Here, we developed a single-step microwave steam activation (STMSA) as a simplified yet efficient method to produce microwave activated biochar (MAB) from waste palm shell (WPS). The STMSA recorded a higher heating rate (70 °C/min) and higher conversion (45 wt%) of WPS into highly microporous MAB (micropore surface area of 679.22 m2/g) in contrast with the conventional heating approach (≤ 12-17 wt%). The MAB was then applied as biosorbent for hazardous landfill leachate (LL) treatment and the adsorption performance was compared with commercial activated carbon under different pH, adsorbent quantity, adsorbate concentrations, and contact times. The MAB demonstrated high adsorption capacity, achieving maximum adsorption efficiency at 595 mg/g and 65 % removal of chemical oxygen demand (COD) with 0.4 g/L of adsorbent amount under optimal acidic conditions (pH ≈ 2-3) after 24 h of contact time. The Freundlich isotherm and pseudo second-order kinetic models were well-fitted to explain the equilibrium adsorption and kinetics. The results indicate the viability of STMSA as a fast and efficient approach to produce activated biochar as a biosorbent for the treatment of hazardous landfill leachate.
  6. Yek PNY, Peng W, Wong CC, Liew RK, Ho YL, Wan Mahari WA, et al.
    J Hazard Mater, 2020 08 05;395:122636.
    PMID: 32298946 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122636
    We developed an innovative single-step pyrolysis approach that combines microwave heating and activation by CO2 or steam to transform orange peel waste (OPW) into microwave activated biochar (MAB). This involves carbonization and activation simultaneously under an inert environment. Using CO2 demonstrates dual functions in this approach, acting as purging gas to provide an inert environment for pyrolysis while activating highly porous MAB. This approach demonstrates rapid heating rate (15-120 °C/min), higher temperature (> 800 °C) and shorter process time (15 min) compared to conventional method using furnace (> 1 h). The MAB shows higher mass yield (31-44 wt %), high content of fixed carbon (58.6-61.2 wt %), Brunauer Emmett Teller (BET) surface area (158.5-305.1 m2/g), low ratio of H/C (0.3) and O/C (0.2). Activation with CO2 produces more micropores than using steam that generates more mesopores. Steam-activated MAB records a higher adsorption efficiency (136 mg/g) compared to CO2 activation (91 mg/g), achieving 89-93 % removal of Congo Red dye. The microwave pyrolysis coupled with steam or CO2 activation thereby represents a promising approach to transform fruit-peel waste to microwave-activated biochar that remove hazardous dye.
  7. Yek PNY, Wan Mahari WA, Kong SH, Foong SY, Peng W, Ting H, et al.
    Bioresour Technol, 2022 Mar;347:126687.
    PMID: 35007740 DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2022.126687
    Thermal co-processing of lignocellulosic and aquatic biomass, such as algae and shellfish waste, has shown synergistic effects in producing value-added energy products with higher process efficiency than the traditional method, highlighting the importance of scaling up to pilot-scale operations. This article discusses the design and operation of pilot-scale reactors for torrefaction, pyrolysis, and gasification, as well as the key parameters of co-processing biomass into targeted and improved quality products for use as fuel, agricultural application, and environmental remediation. Techno-economic analysis reveals that end product selling price, market dynamics, government policies, and biomass cost are crucial factors influencing the sustainability of thermal co-processing as a feasible approach to utilize the biomass. Because of its simplicity, pyrolysis allows greater energy recovery, while gasification has the highest net present value (profitability). Integration of liquefaction, hydrothermal, and fermentation pre-treatment technology has the potential to increase energy efficiency while reducing process residues.
  8. Wan Mahari WA, Waiho K, Azwar E, Fazhan H, Peng W, Ishak SD, et al.
    Chemosphere, 2022 Feb;288(Pt 2):132559.
    PMID: 34655643 DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132559
    Global production of shellfish aquaculture is steadily increasing owing to the growing market demands for shellfish. The intensification of shellfish aquaculture to maximize production rate has led to increased generation of aquaculture waste streams, particularly the effluents and shellfish wastes. If not effectively managed, these wastes could pose serious threats to human health and the ecosystem while compromising the overall sustainability of the industry. The present work comprehensively reviews the source, composition, and environmental implications of shellfish wastes and aquaculture wastewater. Moreover, recent advancements in the valorization of shellfish wastes into value-added biochar via emerging thermochemical and modification techniques are scrutinized. The utilization of the produced biochar in removing emerging pollutants from aquaculture wastewater is also discussed. It was revealed that shellfish waste-derived biochar exhibits relatively higher adsorption capacities (300-1500 mg/g) compared to lignocellulose biochar (<200 mg/g). The shellfish waste-derived biochar can be effectively employed for the removal of various contaminants such as antibiotics, heavy metals, and excessive nutrients from aquaculture wastewater. Finally, future research priorities and challenges faced to improve the sustainability of the shellfish aquaculture industry to effectively support global food security are elaborated. This review envisages that future studies should focus on the biorefinery concept to extract more useful compounds (e.g., carotenoid, chitin) from shellfish wastes for promoting environmental-friendly aquaculture.
  9. Wan Mahari WA, Nam WL, Sonne C, Peng W, Phang XY, Liew RK, et al.
    Bioresour Technol, 2020 Sep;312:123572.
    PMID: 32470829 DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2020.123572
    Microwave vacuum pyrolysis of palm kernel shell was examined to produce engineered biochar for application as additive in agriculture application. The pyrolysis approach, performed at 750 W of microwave power, produced higher yield of porous biochar (28 wt%) with high surface area (270 cm2/g) compared to the yield obtained by conventional approach (<23 wt%). Addition of the porous biochar in mushroom substrate showed increased moisture content (99%) compared to the substrate without biochar (96%). The mushroom substrate added with biochar (150 g) was optimal in shortening formation, growth, and full colonization of the mycelium within one month. Using 2.5% of the biochar in mushroom substrate desirably maintained the optimum pH level (6.8-7) during the mycelium colonization period, leading to high mycelium growth (up to 91%) and mushroom yield (up to 280 g). The engineered biochar shows great potential as moisture retention and neutralizing agent in mushroom cultivation.
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