Professor James Clark of The Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at York University has built a 200,000 pound microwave which can release gases from orange peels which are collected through distillation and then used to generate oil, fuel, and plastic.
Finally some validation for all those times you tried to squeeze and burn the extract of orange peels as a kid.
The science behind it
Orange peels on being exposed to high-powered microwaves release the molecule limonene, which is used in cleaning products as a degreasing agent. Scientists have been able to further break it down to monomers that can produce biodegradable plastic.
However, it’s not only plastic but also bio fuel and chemicals that can be produced from orange peels. In the words of Clark, “The unique feature of our microwave is that we work at deliberately low temperatures. We never go above 200 (degrees Celsius). You can take the limonene off or you can turn limonene into other chemicals. It works really well with waste paper. It can take a big range of bio-waste material.”
It’s fuel for your car
Another gas released by the microwaves is Pectin which can be found in most citrus fruits. It’s used in making jams, jellies, sweets, medicines, and now can be used as fuel for your automobile. For a country like Brazil, which is the largest producer of orange juice, this could virtually fulfill all its fuel needs.
The technology can be ported
This technology has the tremendous potential to eliminate waste because the same technique can also be ported to other kinds of waste products such as paper, cashew nut shells, rice husks, straw, apple peel or even coffee grounds.
It’s one of the great ironies of technology, where once there was something such as Agent Orange, which caused massive ecological damage, today we have oranges which promise to save the environment.