In February 2018, PNG Biomass received an enquiry from Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) final year mechanical engineering students, Simanibu Waram and Percy Wariambu, asking for a thesis project to help PNG Biomass with.
Paul Mesa, Engineering Coordinator at PNG Biomass, received the request and commended the students for their initiative and pro-active stance in approaching local businesses to find a meaningful thesis project.
“The initiative shown by the students deserves commendation, I was in their shoes a few years ago, and I cannot recall anyone of us writing out to companies and asking for projects,” said Mesa.
PNG Biomass suggested that research into the utilisation of biomass fly-ash in cementitious/composite materials would be helpful. The topic aligned well with the engineering materials strands covered in the Unitech Mechanical Engineering degree program.
Mesa explained that the thesis project was more than just helpful to PNG Biomass. “The project focus centred on utilising biomass fly-ash, but we realised soon that work on this project could encourage Waram and Wariambu to consider specialising or venturing into the multi-billion-dollar waste management space. Waste management opportunities are abound in PNG; Lae City, the industrial hub of Papua New Guinea, does not have a specialised waste management system,” said Mesa.
Over the course of 2018 the students worked on the project under the supervision of their lecturer, Dr. Kamalakantha Muduli, and PNG Biomass supported them with all the necessary information and materials, right through to the completion of the project.
Given the binding characteristics of biomass fly ash, the students proposed a setup for combining the fly-ash with Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) for use in light concrete applications. This would decrease the amount of OPC used, hence cutting down the cost in concrete making. A concept design of a batching plant that mixes concrete incorporating both OPC and fly-ash was also developed by Waram and Wariambu.
Working on a project of this nature was a first for Waram and Wariambu. It was also a first for PNG Biomass to work with undergraduate students from the PNG University of Technology as well. For the company this experience will serve as a guide for potential future partnerships with students on their projects.
Mesa attended the official project presentation at Unitech, saying: “We are proud to see Percy and Simanibu present their findings, there is a bright future for them. We also pride ourselves in having significant local content in our PNG Biomass workforce. Fourteen members of our team graduated from the PNG University of Technology – two of which graduated with Master’s Degrees.”
(From left to right: Ninning Jal, Percy Wariambu, Simanibu Waram and Paul Mesa at the Project Presentation at the University of Technology, Mechanical Engineering Department, in Lae)