Long before there was the petroleum-based plastic fruit cup, nature perfected its own biodegradable wrapper for keeping oranges fresh: the peel. But aside from adding a bit of zest to food or being used in the orange-smile gag, peels have largely escaped any greater purpose. That is, until now. One British researcher has discovered a relatively simple way to turn orange peels into oil -- which could then be used to power cars or produce plastics.University of York Professor James Clark, who has developed a revolutionary method of producing eco-fuels, says that orange peels contain certain molecules which, if properly extracted and converted to liquid, could be used effectively as an energy source. Using a high-powered microwave he built in his lab, Clark has proven the potential for such energy-rich oils to be distilled from common organic waste.
And, according to the Daily Express, this technique works on a variety of materials normally tossed into the compost mound:
Professor Clark claims the microwave method could also be used on a variety of plant-based waste to make fuel or other products. They include straw, cashew nut shells, apple peel, coffee or rice husks.
He said: "Waste orange peel is an excellent example of a wasted resource. In Brazil, the world's largest producer of orange juice, half the orange fruit is left as waste once the juice has been recovered. This corresponds to eight million tons a year of orange peel that can be used to produce chemicals, materials and fuels."
Clark, whose research is backed by investors from Brazil and Spain, says that larger scale microwaves could start producing sustainable oils throughout the world, wherever there's peels to be found.
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