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Plasma Sci. Technol. ›› 2018, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (11): 115502.doi: 10.1088/2058-6272/aac819

• Plasma Technology • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Investigation of biomass surface modification using non-thermal plasma treatment

Mooktzeng LIM (林木森) and Ahmad Zulazlan Shah ZULKIFLI   


  1. TNB Research Sdn. Bhd., Research Institution Area, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia
  • Received:2018-02-22 Published:2018-05-23
  • Supported by:

    The authors would like to thank Tenaga Nasional Berhad (Malaysia) for funding this research (TNBR/SF 240/2016).


The effects of non-thermal plasma (NTP) treatment on biomass in the form of pulverized palm- based empty fruit bunches (EFB) are investigated. Specifically, this study investigates the effects of NTP treatment on the surface reactivity, morphology, oxygen-to-carbon (O/C) ratio of the EFB at varying treatment times. The surface reactivity is determined by the reaction of antioxidant functional groups or reactive species with 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH). By measuring the concentration of the DPPH with a spectrophotometer, the change in the amount of antioxidant functional groups can be measured to determine the surface reactivity. The reactions of the various lignin components in the EFB with respect to the NTP treatment are discussed by qualitatively assessing the changes in the Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra. The surface morphology is examined by a scanning electron microscope. To determine the amount of oxygen deposited on the EFB by the air-based NTP treatment, the oxygen and carbon contents are measured by an energy dispersive x-ray detector to determine the O/C ratio. The results show that the NTP reactor produced reactive species such as atomic oxygen and ozone, increasing the surface reactivity and chemical scavenging rate of the EFB. Consequently, the surface morphology changed, with an observed rougher surface from the images of the EFB samples. The change in the appearance of the surface is accompanied by a high O/C ratio, and is caused by reactions of certain components of lignin due to the NTP treatment. The lignin component that was modified is believed to be syringyl, as the syringyl portion in the lignin of EFBs is higher compared to the other components. Syringyl components are detected in the range of FTIR wavenumbers of 1109–1363cm −1 . With increasing NTP treatment times, the absorbance (of the peaks in the FTIR spectra) for syringyl related C−H and lignin associated C=C bonds decreases as the syringyl decomposes. The resulting release of carboxyl compounds increases the absorbance for the carbonyl C=O group. The results show that NTP treatment is able to modify the surface properties of EFB, and that the surface reactivity can be increased to improve their conversion and processing efficiencies

Key words: biomass, surface modification, empty fruit bunch, low temperature plasma, lignin components, syringyl