As Christian students living in a fast paced world, finding the balance between faith and feasibility is a large and challenging portion of our project, impacting each design phase thus far.
Ultimately, this project was chosen as an alternative and a solution to the current questions surrounding ethanol production. As Christians, we understand that land and resources are to be used to the best of their capabilities. Humans are able to live without fuel but are not able to live without food. Although quite basic, this fact has become the framework and purpose for team research and design efforts. When selecting the best alternative to ethanol, consideration was given only to those sources which are non-food products. The choice of jatropha also included an analysis of its desired growing conditions. It was quickly discovered that jatropha can, in fact, grow in dry, harsh landscapes that traditional food and fuel crops cannot. Thus, land owners currently farming food crops would not be directly tempted to replace their food crops with jatropha plants.
Stewardship does not end at land use, though. The efficiency of biodiesel processing must also be taken into consideration. Although ethanol has become a commercialized biodiesel, its efficiency is dramatically lower than other alternatives like the jatropha seed. A collegiate design team is perhaps the best option for studying these alternatives, as the initial studies and research are not profitable or economical for an average company. Optimization of our chemical process and design will seek to increase efficiency and profitability.
Consideration was also given to include both developed and developing nations in the initial project planning process. Citizens of developing nations would greatly benefit from the development and industrialization of jatropha-based biodiesel. Land which is currently unfarmed due to lack of soil quality would be utilized in growing jatropha for the needs of individual families, villages and towns, or for exportation and entrepreneurship. In addition to studying the chemical oil extraction process, modern presses will be studied and considered. During the development of the chemical biodiesel treatment stage, each chemical will be studied in detail from the perspective of both developed and developing nations. Using Material Safety Data Sheets, each chemical’s toxicity and associated risks will be evaluated and the feasibility for use in a developing nation will be addressed. Because oil extraction from jatropha and the biodiesel created are potential consumer goods, the product quality and the safety of the consumer must not be compromised.