UPNM transforms palm oil waste into gunpowder for bullets

By Noraizura Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 (Bernama) — Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) has successfully transformed palm oil waste into gunpowder or alternative propellant for bullets.  

Associate Research Fellow at the UPNM’s Research Centre, Assoc Prof Dr. Siti Aminah Mohd Noor, stated that the innovation, spearheaded by a team of researchers, commenced two years ago and has undergone shooting trials. 

“Given Malaysia’s status as a major palm oil producer in the Asian region the study continues the concerted effort to utilise palm oil mesocarp fiber as a cellulose source.

“This enhances the value of the resulting cellulose as it originates from waste material, making it inherently more cost-effective compared to commercial cellulose.

“Palm oil waste is essentially residual material; after oil is extracted from the palm fruit, the cellulose can be extracted from the waste for use as a primary substance for gunpowder production,” she told Bernama, at the UPNM booth at the Asia Defence Services (DSA) and National Security (NATSEC) Asia 2024 exhibition here. 

Siti Aminah explained that cellulose is a type of polysaccharide polymer with strong, flexible properties, which decomposes naturally, enabling its use in various industries such as paper, textile, food, and energy. 

She said these innovative bullets have similar characteristics in terms of speed as imported ones, and highlighted that they are better for the environment due to minimal smoke emission and the quantity used is much less compared to existing bullets. 

“Now that the production of the propellant has been successful, we are studying the stabilising agent required to ensure safer and longer storage,” she said.

The alternative substance replacing black powder commonly used as gunpowder can be utilised for bullets of any caliber as well as bombs, she added. 

Siti Aminah stated that UPNM’s first bullet propellant product was showcased at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in 2023 and drew much interest from potential investors.

She emphasised that it is time for Malaysia to have its own defense products and utilise local expertise to reduce dependency on imports.