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Researchers from the University of York will examine the potential of extracting biomass-derived chemicals, materials and fuels from the skin of oranges, using safe and sustainable chemistry.

The project is being led by Professor James Clark, of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University. He has set up the Orange Peel Exploitation Company (OPEC) – a partnership between researchers from York, the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and the University of Cordoba, Spain.

Professor Clark 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 three million tonnes a year of orange peel that can be used to produce chemicals, materials and fuels.”

He added: “The by-product of the juicing industry therefore 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.”

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.

Maxine Perella

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