Australians evaluate native oil-bearing tree

By Susanne Retka Schill | August 19, 2009
Posted August 24, 2009

Early tests by Australia's CQUniversity researchers show promise for a new biodiesel feedstock the native Australian Beauty Leaf Tree. The wild tree grows well throughout coastal areas of tropical Australia on salty, drought-affected, acidic and waterlogged lands and is valued for medicinal properties in the oil, attractive flowers and wood quality.

PhD student Subhash Hathurusingha and associate professor Najapa Ashwath estimate Calophylumm inophyllum can produce up to 5,000 liters of oil per hectare per year (534 gallons per acre) from its abundant fruits, the seeds of which contain up to 60 percent non-edible oil. The Australians report the Beauty Leaf Tree fruits like macadamia and can be managed like the nut tree. The wild tree lives up to 200 years, producing fruit twice each year.

The researchers have been collaborating with a mechanical engineer in Sri Lanka to design a seed oil expeller and automated biodiesel reactor which uses a 4-stage transesterification process to convert the highly viscous calophyllum oil into biodiesel. Initial tests show the power output and fuel efficiency of calophyllum biodiesel is comparable to conventional diesel.

CQUniversity is based in Rockhampton, Australia, in central Queensland, with learning centers on the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast as well as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and a business college in Singapore.
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