Tree seeds offer potential for sustainable biofuels

Jan 09, 2013

Tree seeds, rather than biomass or fuel crop plants, could represent an abundant source of renewable energy, according to research published in the International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management. The study suggests that seeds from the Indian mahua and sal trees have almost as good a thermal efficiency as biodiesel but would produce lower emissions of carbon monoxide, waste hydrocarbons and NOx (nitrogen oxides).

Sukumar Puhan of the GKM College of Engineering and Technology and colleagues N. Vedaraman and K.C. Velappan of the Central Leather Research Institute, in Chennai, India, explain how tree seeds represent a vast untapped biomass resource for the production of automotive fuels in India. The use of tree seed oils as a source could have several additional benefits over vegetable seed oils including lower viscosity and greater volatility, both of which would reduce injector fouling, and piston ring sticking, common issues with some biodiesel formulations.

The team points out that vast tonnages of seeds from the deciduous mahua (Madhuca indica) and semi-deciduous sal (Shorea robusta) trees are simply left to waste on the forest floor. The mahua kernel constitutes 70% of the seed and contains 50% oil, which can be extracted at levels of 34 to 37%. Sal can produce about 20% oil. The oil is chemically converted to biodiesel using the process of transesterification, which reacts the oily triglyceride content with alcohol using a catalyst. The team has now successfully tested this chemistry on seeds from the mahua and sal trees. They also demonstrated efficacy with neem seed, although suggest the economics of using this species are prohibitive because the tree has greater value for its wood and also has a much longer maturation period than mahua at 25 years.

It is estimated that there are 64 million hectares of wasteland across India including 15 million hectares of degraded, notified that could be converted to plantation to provide sal and mahua seed in a sustainable fashion as well as generating employment opportunities for a large number of people. This would amount to about 120 person-days work per hectares given an estimated productive lifespan of the mahua of 60 years. The mahua takes just ten years to reach seed-producing maturity.

"Biodiesel production from tree seeds in India will not only reduce the dependence on crude oil imports, but also reduce the environmental impact of transportation and increase employment opportunities," the team concludes.

Explore further: Improving the productivity of tropical potato cultivation

More information: "Liquid biofuels from tree borne seed oils for automotive diesel engines" in Int. J. Automotive Technology and Management, 2012, 12, 223-231.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers find protein to up yield from oilseed crops

Mar 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed a protein that can be expressed in oilseed crops to increase the oil yield by as much as 40 percent, a development that could have an impact on the biodiesel ...

Nuts go furthest with the early bird

Aug 17, 2011

Toucans in the tropics disperse nutmegs the furthest in the morning, according to research by Wageningen UR ecologist Patrick Jansen.

Recommended for you

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

Gene removal could have implications beyond plant science

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —For thousands of years humans have been tinkering with plant genetics, even when they didn't realize that is what they were doing, in an effort to make stronger, healthier crops that endured climates better, ...

Chrono, the last piece of the circadian clock puzzle?

Apr 15, 2014

All organisms, from mammals to fungi, have daily cycles controlled by a tightly regulated internal clock, called the circadian clock. The whole-body circadian clock, influenced by the exposure to light, dictates the wake-sleep ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tscati
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2013
>The team points out that vast tonnages of seeds ... are simply >left to waste on the forest floor.

They don't go to waste - they return essential nutrients to the soil to fertilise next years growth. Take it all away and soon you'll need to start bringing in some other source of fertiliser. So not really a major long-term solution - may be useful if only a small proportion of the material is removed.
Sean_W
2 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2013
>The team points out that vast tonnages of seeds ... are simply >left to waste on the forest floor.

They don't go to waste - they return essential nutrients to the soil to fertilise next years growth. Take it all away and soon you'll need to start bringing in some other source of fertiliser. So not really a major long-term solution - may be useful if only a small proportion of the material is removed.


Or, since these are not being used as food for animals or humans, partially treated sewage could be used to water and replace nutrients which the nuts would have provided. As long as it isn't applied fast enough to get to ground water, that is.

More news stories

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...