Biodiesel has attracted considerable attention during the past decade as a renewable, biodegradable and non-toxic fuel alternative to fossil fuels. Biodiesel can be obtained from vegetable oils (both edible and non-edible) and from animal fat. Jatropha curcas Linnaeus, a multipurpose plant, contains high amount of oil in its seeds which can be converted to biodiesel. J. curcas is probably the most highly promoted oilseed crop at present in the world. The availability and sustainability of sufficient supplies of less expensive feedstock in the form of vegetable oils, particularly J. curcas and efficient processing technology to biodiesel will be crucial determinants of delivering a competitive biodiesel. Oil contents, physicochemical properties, fatty acid composition of J. curcas reported in literature are provided in this review. The fuel properties of Jatropha biodiesel are comparable to those of fossil diesel and confirm to the American and European standards. The objective of this review is to give an update on the J. curcas L. plant, the production of biodiesel from the seed oil and research attempts to improve the technology of converting vegetable oil to biodiesel and the fuel properties of the Jatropha biodiesel. The technological methods that can be used to produce biodiesel are presented together with their advantages and disadvantages. The use of lipase as biotechnological solution to alkali and acid catalysis of transesterification and its advantages is discussed. There is need to carry out research on the detoxification of the seed cake to increase the benefits from J. curcas. There is also need to carry out life-cycle assessment and the environment impacts of introducing large scale plantations. There is also still a dearth of research about the influence of various cultivation-related factors and their interactions and influence on seed yield. Many other areas that need to be researched on J. curcas L. are pointed out in this review.
Key words: Biodiesel, transesterification, Jatropha curcas, fuel properties, vegetable oil.
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