Monday, February 18, 2008

[PBN] Breadfruit Fuels Hope of Relief

Breadfruit Fuels Hope of Relief




Written by Pio Sioa

Monday, 11 February 2008

Director of RDIS Taito Dr. Fa’ale Tumali’i

The extraction of the valuable chemical methanol from breadfruit is being pushed to the front of the work list for the Institute for Research and Development at Nafanua, RDIS.

The priority shuffle carries a Cabinet stamp of urgency, as high prices of world oil continues to bleed whatever gains made in the national economy.
Much research will have to be carried out however over the coming years, with little study available to RDIS on the most effective way to extract methanol from breadfruit.

The institute is already pouring over the best options to take, with an overseas fermentation technologist expected to arrive soon to help out.
“If it was corn, the United States is already advanced in their studies, the same as for sugarcane in Brazil,” Director of RDIS Taito Dr. Fa’ale Tumali’i revealed to Newsline on Friday.

With breadfruit, the immediate focus of study is to determine between yeast and bacteria, the best agent to break down the starch quicker.
Once the best option is identified, the process of methanol extraction is quicker.

The long-term goal is a processing plant that can produce between 3-5 million litres of methanol a year. “We are only now starting to set things up like equipment and to identify areas where the priority so be, so we should know by next year how far we have progressed,” Dr. Fa’ale noted. The choice of breadfruit as the best source for methanol was an easy one for the RDIS to make.

“Practically every family in Samoa has several trees growing at home, anytime you drive along the villages your see them lining the road or growing everywhere. “We’ve also grown breadfruit trees all our lives so there is no need to train people to plant. Breadfruit used to be a seasonal crop as well, now it seems to be in fruit all year long so the supply of raw materials will always be available.”

Another advantage to support the choice of crop is the fruit can be processed at any stage of growth whether it is still green or overly ripe they drop to the ground. “We will longer have people complaining about where to take the excess harvest because even the ones on the ground can be scooped up for processing.” A rough estimate of up to 1,500 acres of land will need to be planted to cater for the demand once production starts.
“The number of trees we have now should roughly make up 500 acres, so we are already ahead in that count.

“We could easily make up the balance with a replanting programme.”
Methanol is already in use to top up the petrol content by up to 20 per cent without any modifications to car engines. With newer technology coming in the content ratio could go up to as high as 80 per cent methanol. “In the United States for example President Bush has targeted Year 2020 as the date when methanol should make up 85 per cent of the ratio.”

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