A team of scientists in India claim that the seeds of native mahua and sal trees represent a vast untapped resource for producing biodiesel. They converted seed oils in the lab using a process involving alcohol and a catalyst, with a result that they say could be superior to biofuels created using vegetable seed oils due to its lower viscosity and greater volatility. Tree seed biofuel would also produce lower amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions compared to other biofuels. The research was recently published in International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management.
What’s the Big Idea?
Currently, according to the team, large amounts of mahua and sal tree seeds fall and are left to waste. Converting some of the millions of hectares of Indian forestland to plantations could provide the necessary biomass. One mahua tree has “an estimated productive lifespan of the mahua of 60 years [and] takes just ten years to reach seed-producing maturity.” Ultimately, the goal is to “reduce [India’s] dependence on crude oil imports, but also reduce the environmental impact of transportation and increase employment opportunities.”