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Tapping Nature’s Bounty

Bonanza from the natural world and in particular, the coconut tree, has captured the imagination of Professor Dr Suhaimi Muhammed who has successfully developed  an environmentally friendly biocomposite material by utilizing coconut husks.

bonanzaBonanza from the natural world and in particular, the coconut tree, has captured the imagination of Professor Dr Suhaimi Muhammed who has successfully developed  an environmentally friendly biocomposite material by utilizing coconut husks.

The coconut tree, called the tree of life, contributes a substantial slice to the nation’s economy. Apart from offering jobs to the coastal population nationwide, its rich biodiversity and potential for food and new natural products are hard to match.

Recognizing the unmet industrial and commercial need for environmentally friendly biocomposite products, Professor Dr Suhaimi together with Amran Shafie and Noorshashillawati Azura Mohammad from the Faculty of Applied Sciences began thinking about using coconut husks in developing biocomposite tiles. Biocomposites, also known as natural fibre composites, are composed of biodegradeable plant-based or animal-based natural fibres such as flax, jute, silk or wool.

The research utilizes long fibre bundles of coconut coir obtained from coconut husks. The low density and high cellulose content of such fibres lead to their excellent specific properties, which enable them to compete with traditional ceramic fibres. The biocomposite tiles are made by combining the readily available coconut husks with fiberglass which are further bonded with acrylic resin (gel coat). When tested for dimensional stability, this biocomposite material exhibited very low water absorption rates (less than three percent) and thickness swelling (less than one percent).

This work suggests that use of plant-based fibres as reinforcement in a natural fibre composite system may be potential for effectively improving the properties and performances of polymer matrix resins. Natural fibres can serve as reinforcement by improving the strength and stiffness and also by reducing the weight of the resulting biocomposite materials. Thus they are suitable for use as vehicle plates, floors, walls, various domestic artefacts. and specific industrial applications. A key outcome of the research and development conducted by the team is the portable biocomposite press which was developed for the benefit of small scale coconut entrepreneurs. Using the portable press, these entrepreneurs will be able to come up with their own bicomposite materials, thus leading to the coconut industry’s adaptability and growth. The utilization of coconut coir is also a bonus to villagers who own coconut plantations as it adds to their source of income. Other advantages of using coconut coir include: low cost, availability, toughness, low density and biodegradability.

The speed at which Professor Suhaimi’s innovation has moved from university science to a commercial proposition has been swift. What started as a research project just three  years ago is now a business proposition with plans to revolutionise various industrial and domestic applications.

Further information : The invention has bagged numerous local and international awards, culminating in the bronze medal at the 37th International Exhibition of Inventions, Geneva, Switzerland 2009.

Professor Dr Suhaimi Muhammed and his team are attached to UiTM Pahang and can be contacted via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.