Seeds of Native Trees May Help Fuel African Tractors

K-State research project helps farmers learn to make biodiesel.

Researchers at Kansas State University are working to help farmers in northern Ghana solve their fuel problems by making biodiesel from the seeds of native trees.

Walter Kpikpi from the University for Development Studies, Navrongo Campus, in Ghana visited K-State in November 2008 with funding from K-State's African Studies Center. He is leading a project that will make biodiesel for local farmers in Ghana from seeds collected by local farmers.

Funded by K-State's African Studies Center, K-State biologists analyzed the oil content of four common tree species in Ghana. Ariel Burns, research technician in K-State's Division of Biology, was joined by Richard Jeannotte, research associate in biology, and Ruth Welti, professor of biology. They found that two tree species, Jatropha curcas and Azadirachta indica -- also known as neem -- have seeds with high oil content. They now are finalizing the analysis of the lipids in the seeds.

Wenqiao "Wayne" Yuan, K-State assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, has expertise in biodiesel reactor design and conversion. When funding is available for the pilot-scale biodiesel plant in Ghana, Yuan has offered to work with Kpikpi to create the facility to process tree seeds and convert them into biodiesel. The plant would include an oil extraction device and biodiesel reactor, Yuan said.

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