Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Biodiesel Tree

Copaifera langsdorffii
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Diesel tree

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Tribe: Detarieae
Genus: Copaifera
Species: C. langsdorffii
Binomial name
Copaifera langsdorffii
Desf.

The tropical rainforest tree Copaifera langsdorffii is known as the diesel tree and kerosene tree. It has many names in local languages, including kupa'y, cabismo, and copa├║va. It produces a large amount of terpene hydrocarbons in its wood and leaves. One tree can produce 30 to 40 liters of hydrocarbons per year. The oil is collected by tree tapping. The main compound in the oil is copaiba, an oleoresin which is useful in the production of oil products such as lacquers and can be used as biodiesel. The tree is also the main source of copaene, another terpene.

It is a medium-sized tree usually reaching 12 meters in height, with white flowers and small, oily fruits. The wood is light due to its porosity. It is honeycombed with capillaries filled with oil. Tapping the tree involves cutting a well into which the oil seeps and where it can be easily collected. Despite its vigorous production of oil the tree does not grow well outside of the tropics and does not show promise as a reliable source of biodiesel.

Bees utilize the tree for pollen collection. The wood can be burned for firewood or used in carpentry. The plant has a great number of historical medicinal uses.

Too bad they only grow in the tropics. Of course, if the great scientist algore is right, we could be living in the tropics in a couple of years!

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