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Jatropha Biodiesel

Science and technology has greatly impacted our quality of life in every possible aspect .Since the invention of steam powered locomotives to the first aeroplanes, and to the latest cruise ship, all have revolutionized our living. There is one common factor which binds all our technological advancements, and that is the need for an energy source. Be it petrol, diesel, electricity, coal and other fossil fuels, all need to be taken from nature and are limited, though exhaustive

The increasing need for more fuel resources has made mankind look towards alternate energy sources which give an alternate to conventional fuels. Solar energy is one example where sunlight is used t charge photovoltaic cells which can power gadgets. Today, we see many devices working on solar energy, thereby forming an alternate energy source which can be tapped naturally.

Bio fuels are one such alternate fuel which is made by hydrogenation of vegetable and natural oils into synthetic diesel. It’s very similar to conventional diesel, and gives almost the same efficiency

Jatropha (Scientific name: Jatropha curcas,) is a evergreen  plant which can grow both in tropical regions as well as arid, sandy regions with scanty rainfall up to  250mm per year. It has a life expectancy of 40 years and does not require any pesticides, as the plant itself is resistant to pests and is a fungicide.  What make the plant quite useful are its seeds, which contain about 27-40% natural oil, which can be hydrogenated to produce a highly efficient biodiesel, usable in standard automobile diesel engines.

One Hectare of Jatropha cultivation would yield 100-300 liters of natural oil, which can be processed into standard biodiesel, and can power your automobile engine. However, the plant, and its seeds are highly poisonous as they yield a toxic compound called curcin.

Apart from that, the crushed seeds which are left after extracting the oil can be used a biomass for electricity plants, or as a high quality organic fertile.  During the process of converting the oil into biodiesel, Glycerin is obtained as a byproduct.

Currently, Jatropha biodiesel is being blended with normal diesel and used in automobiles and researches are underway to make it a self sustained fuel. World-over biofuels are used in a 5-20% blend with conventional diesel.

Let’s consider how such cultivation would make a difference to the world as well as the economy. Unlike fossil fuel reserves which can get depleted, Jatropha can always be cultivated easily, as it does sustain in any type of soil and requires very less rainfall. The overall yield is quite profitable, as we can get biodiesel, glycerin, as well as a biomass/natural pesticide as a by-product. It’s quite economical and a very viable alternative energy source which has the potential to be a safe alternative to conventional diesel. Barren and parched lands with les rainfall can be utilized for this cultivation, and would also produce a steady income to farmers in those lands. In developing countries such as India and other regions with a scanty rainfall, such cultivation generates employment, makes use of otherwise barren lands, and contributes to economy as dependency on crude oil decreases. Also, the yield is just not limited to fuel, but also gives glycerin, biomass and an effective natural pesticide.

There is a danger that such cultivation might replace other food grain cultivation, thereby causing a supply shortfall, as being pointed out by some analysts with specific trends. Hence, there is a need for a structured plan of action in Jatropha cultivation, involving a region by region approach. The initial yields and returns though at times might not match with other regions, but would surely work out as a viable energy alternate in the long run, as depletion of fossil fuels is a far more threat the modern world is set to face.

Though the biodiesel might not be as much fuel-efficient as normal diesel, it can suit our energy needs.

Currently, Jatropha biodiesel is being blended with normal diesel and used in automobiles and researches are underway to make it a self sustained fuel. World-over biofuels are used in a 5-20% blend with conventional diesel.

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