The jatropha-curcas tree sways in the balmy winds of South American. Short in stature, reaching all of 20 feet, the tree offers little in the way of shade, although sturdy enough to flourish in hostile terrains. Unremarkable in every way were it not for its nuts.
The yellowish-brown seeds harbor the poison toxalbumin curcin, rendering the shrub useless to man. Or not. The seeds also contain an oil that has the potential to fuel jets.
Yale University’s School of Environmental Studies released findings yesterday that found the jatropha-curcas oil is not only viable as a biofuel, but use of the tree in biofuels also have environmental and socioeconomic benefits for Latin America.
Funded by Boeing, researchers looked at current jatropha-curcas farming practices in an effort to discover ways to improve crop quality without harming the environment.
The study found a jatropha-curcas crop planted on cleared land reduces green house gas emissions by 60 percent. The study also found quality of the seeds need to be enhanced, which will lead to better performing biofuels.
“The invaluable insights provided by this study will help our airline customers to better understand the sustainability of this potential jet fuel source, while also providing solid scientific data to governments and environmental organizations throughout the region,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Director of Environmental Strategy Michael Hurd.
Boeing’s biofuel initiatives tackle two issues; the use of biofuels to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and the cultivation of biofuels without harming the environment. In the jatropha-curcas nut, the aviation company hopes to find the perfect mix.