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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Fill ‘er up Jojoba

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a cosmetic alternative to diesel fuel: jojoba oil.


CURWOOD: Coming up, thousands of years of human history comes alive through the present day voices of the Bushmen of the Kalahari. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.

[MUSIC: Science Note Theme]

CHU: Jojoba oil comes from the nuts of the jojoba shrub, which grows in dry desert climates like the southwestern United States and the Middle East. It's used primarily as a natural beauty ingredient in shampoo, skin cleaners, and anti-aging creams. But the plant extract may prove to be more than just nature's wrinkle fighter. Researchers at the United Arab Emirates University have found that the jojoba oil may be a less polluting alternative to diesel fuel. When researchers compared the performance of the compression engine run on diesel with one run on a mixture of raw jojoba oil and methanol, they found the nut oil performed the same as diesel in the torque and power categories, and ran more quietly than diesel engines.

Researchers believe jojoba could be a viable alternative fuel since it contains no sulfur and less carbon than diesel. But, there's a drawback. One acre of jojoba seeds could yield 194 gallons of bio-diesel. And scientists say it would be an enormous investment and agricultural challenge to grow enough seeds to make jojoba profitable. Still, farmers in Egypt have already started planting the crops specifically to use as fuel. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Ry Cooder Secret Love Mambo Sinuendo Nonesuch (2003)]

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.



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