Jobs are expected to be created soon as there are plans by the federal government to start the production of brake pad lining from palm kernel shell wastes, the Director-General of the Raw Material Research Council (RMRDC), Professor Hussaini D. Ibrahim, has announced.
Consequently, more farmers will be supported to plant the trees in the producing states in order to access necessary raw materials for the production.
Brake pads are one of the most important safety and performance components in automobiles. They are used in the braking systems of automobiles and other vehicles and machines to control the speed by converting kinetic to heat energy which is dissipated to the atmosphere.
The braking system is an indispensable component of an automobile, and is composed of many parts such as brake pads, master cylinder, wheel cylinders, and a hydraulic control system.
The brake pad consists of steel braking plates with friction materials bound to the surface facing the brake disc. The major component in the brake pad is the lining materials, which are categorized as metallic, semi-metallic, organic and carbon-based, depending on the composition of the constituent elements.
Why FG picks palm kernel shell wastes as alternative raw material for lining production
According to the RMRDC DG, for more than 80 years, asbestos has been used as the friction material because of its good physical and chemical properties. However, he noted, due to the health hazard associated with its handling, it is no longer popular and several alternative materials are being increasingly used for pads formulation. Globally now, efforts are being intensified towards developing asbestos free brake pads.
He said research and development is focusing on ways of utilizing either industrial or agricultural wastes as sources of raw materials in the industry as it is considered that adoption and utilization of wastes will not only be economical, but may also result to foreign exchange savings and environmental control.
‘’In most parts, R@D is focusing on agro wastes that are not only sustainably available, but have properties reminiscent of those of asbestos. One of such wastes produced in Nigeria is palm kernel shell,” he added.
Mr. Toyin Alao, a chemical Engineer, noted that large quantities of Palm Kernel Shell PKS are generated annually but only some fractions are used for fuel and other applications such as palliative for un-tarred roads and in producing activated carbon.
The unused PKS, according to him, are dumped around the processing mills, constituting environmental and economic liability for the mill.
The RMRDC DG said Research and Development have shown the coefficient of friction of PKS on metal surfaces to be in the range of 0.37-0.52. This is within the friction coefficient of 0.30-0.70 normally desirable for brake lining materials.
“It has been found that incorporation of PKS in the production of structural light weight concretes increased its mechanical strength. Thus, PKS appeared suitable for use as base material in friction composites, because they are unsusceptible to hard and variable braking forces,” he added.
According to him, studies have also shown that PKS does not change significantly in physical structure and weight, for appreciable time duration, when exposed to organic solvents. Also, PKS does not change when exposed to varying environmental conditions such as wet or dry weather or hydraulic fluid spilling over. These observations stimulated interest in considering PKS for use as friction material in brake lining.
In Nigeria, the oil palm tree is regarded as an important economic tree because of the value of the palm oil and palm kernel oil produced from it. During the production process, several residues are co-produced, the most important of which is palm kernel shell which is regarded as waste.
According to RMRDC statistics, on annual basis, more than 200,000 tonnes of palm kernel shells are produced and these are either burnt to supply energy to the mills or left in piles to compost. Although the combustion value of palm kernel shell is substantial, the process of burning PKS releases significant volatiles which pose pre- ignition and pollution concerns. This raises the need to find viable, nontoxic industrial use for PKS wastes in Nigeria.
To combat the problem, the DG said the Council decided to develop brake pad lining from the available palm kernel shell. The aim, he said, was to reduce or completely eliminate the health risks posed by asbestos in friction lining manufacture and to reduce the cost of friction linings. “This becomes very important as most of the brake pad manufacturing outfits in Nigeria, among which were Feredo, then located in Ibadan, Oyo State; Mintex, then located in Kano; Fenok, then situated in Onitsha, Anambra State; Apex (Lagos); Edison (Nnewi) and Uko (Onitsha and Nnewi) have all stopped production as a result of a myriad of problems among which was high dependence on imported raw materials,” the DG added.
According to industry sources, these firms went under following inconsistent government policies, poor quality control measures and uncontrolled importation of substandard brake pads from Asia.
“The aim of the project is to develop local content and to save foreign exchange as Nigeria is a large market for automobiles. Though there are few automobile assembly plants in Nigeria, the country remains a net importer of motor vehicles and brake pads, which results in huge foreign exchange losses for the country,” the DG said.
He said the Council in collaboration with Prof O. A. Koya of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Star Auto Nig. Ltd. Satellite Town Lagos, the only surviving brake pad producing outfit in Nigeria, developed a research project that would utilize the abundant palm kernel shells for the production of brake pad and lining.
The R&D, he added, had been successfully completed and patented.
“The physical, thermal, mechanical and tribological properties of the PKS-based brake pads have been evaluated. The pads produced have been exposed to extensive field tests which were highly successful. The product meets NIS 232 standards as analyzed by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON).
“Also, agreement had been signed with Auto Star which has up-to-date facilities for brake pad production. The Council is working assiduously to make the pads available in the Nigerian market. The next steps are to complete Trade Mark Registration at the Ministry of Trade and Investment and to commercialize the invention in partnership with prospective investors,” he said.