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Engineer adds value to rice husks into useful industrial chemicals

rice husk value addition
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For over a century, rice husks have been a difficulty to farmers in Mwea who have out of frustration ended up dumping them by the roadside or in lonely farms to decompose by themselves oblivious of the advantages that come with reusing the husks. In this, farmers can convert the husks into silica gel through value addition.

Raphael Kungu, an electrical engineer at Jomo Kenyatta University has found a way to utilize the husks which are usually dumped as waste into useful industrial chemicals.

In 2016, he recollected the rice husks stacked in heaps along the roads and footpaths in Mwea which turned out to the most beneficial idea and he couldn’t look any further than to put the hulls into use by making the Silica gel and the Sodium Silicate Solution.

“At first the project was initially for research purposes but later on, I realized it can be a great business venture that would generate capital since the husks are readily available in the fields ” narrated Mr Kungu.

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Raphael Kungu displays his innovation at the 2018 Nairobi International Trade Fair at Jamhuri grounds. PHOTO/FILE/FarmBiz Africa

Currently, the big industries that produce the gel sell them at Sh580, 000 per ton who as well sell it in large quantities to high end and big businesses leaving out startup businesses who can’t afford to buy it in large quantities.

Although it’s not a guarantee that the husks will be available forever since many business ventures are rising up to incorporate the husks into cardboards and hay stacks  Kungu looks forward to cater for the needs of entrepreneurs like the local soap makers who need the silica solution in small quantities on daily basis for their businesses.

The gel and the sodium silicate solution is processed in an energy saving procedure where the husks are burnt to produce a white ash which is then mixed with a hydroxide which then  precipitates it  to make the solution.

“one thing I like about the project is that it doesn’t require high labor and expensive machinery or chemicals to process it .For instance the products we get them from fields then we use a simple chemical process and a gasifier to achieve the final product.

The main applications of sodium silicates are in detergents, paper, water treatment, and construction materials as well as drilling fluids to stabilize borehole walls, concrete and masonry treatment, water purification, detergent auxiliaries and many other uses.

“The sample products have already been tested in the JKUAT Lab and they meet the KEBS standards.  We will soon restock them in the shopping outlets for suppliers” added Kungu.

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