Orange peel, a wasted energy resource?

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th September 2011

Scientists in the UK, Spain, and Brazil are collaborating to find a way of producing valuable biomass-derived chemicals, materials and fuels from orange peel.

Christened the Orange Peel Exploitation Company (OPEC), the project is a partnership between researchers from York, the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and the University of Cordoba, Spain.

Professor James Clark, of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence in the University’s Department of Chemistry said, “The by-product of the juicing industry has the potential to provide a range of compounds, offering a more profitable and environmentally valuable alternative to current waste use practices. We are seeking to do this by harnessing the chemical potential of food supply chain waste using green chemical technologies and use nature’s own functionalities to obtain sought-after properties in everyday products.

Professor Clark said, “Food residues and by-products are being generated in very significant quantities by the food industry. 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 three million tonnes a year of orange peel that can be used to produce chemicals, materials and fuels.

“The increasing demand for renewable feedstocks is encouraging the re-use of organic waste from the food supply chain for the production of novel added-value materials, chemicals and fuels,” Professor Clark said.

OPEC will target products including bio-ethanol, the widely used additive in domestic products d-limonene, and mesoporous carbons that can be used as water purifiers, as well as chemical commodities such as cresol, all of which have the advantage of being bio-derived.