Jatropha oil is vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, a plant that can grow in marginal lands and common lands. Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can also thrive on the poorest stony soil and grow in the crevices of rocks.
When jatropha seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel that can be used in a standard diesel car, while the residue (press cake) can also be processed and used as biomass feedstock to power electricity plants or used as fertilizer (it contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium).
The plant yields more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean, and more than ten times that of maize (corn). A hectare of jatropha produces 1,892 litres of fuel.
Jatropha curcas is regarded as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species has been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown. However, because jatropha can grow in harsh climates, it can be planted in areas where it won't compete for resources needed to grow food.
Aviation fuels may be more widely substituted with biofuels a such as jatropha oil than fuels for other forms of transportation. There are fewer planes than cars or trucks and far fewer jet fueling stations to convert than gas stations. On December 30, 2008, Air New Zealand flew the first successful test flight with a Boeing 747 running one of its four Rolls-Royce engines on a 50:50 blend of jatropha oil and jet A-1 fuel. Subsequently, Air New Zealand and Houston based Continental Airlines have run tests in Jan. 2009, further demonstrating the viability of jatropha oil as a jet fuel. Japan Air also plans test flights in Jan. 2009 as well.
In 2008-2009 a pair of student researchers at a public school in Connecticut tested Jatropha's ability to produce light Hydrocarbon fuels. Through the Gas Chromatographic analysis, the pair saw a significantly greater amount of Hydrocarbons present than diesel in a gas sample taken. The gas sample was taken through heating shell-less ground Jatropha at 800 degrees Celsius above a burner in a gas trap. The Gas Chromatographic analysis also showed that among the Hydrocarbons present was a significant amount of Methane along with Ethane and Propane. The sample taken also contained over 15% per gram Carbon Dioxide. This research, along with other growing tests done by the researchers, may provide new light unto previous claims made regarding Jatropha's viability as a biodiesel. This may lead to research into Jatropha's potential as a solid fuel source in a solution.
Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)