Orange Peels Could Someday Power Your DeLorean

After you’ve treated yourself to a sweet, juicy orange, make sure you don’t throw away the peel — University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has brought about a way to produce ethanol from many waste products, orange peels and newspapers among them. DeLorean time machine (with Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor of course) anyone?

Currently, the most popular biofuel source is corn starch, which is fermented and converted into usable ethanol. But as Science Daily points out, such ethanol actually produces more greenhouse emissions than gasoline. Professor Daniell’s breakthrough “uses plant-derived enzyme cocktails to break down orange peels and other waste materials into sugar, which is then fermented into ethanol.” Newspapers, orange peels, non-food products such as sugar cane, straw, and switchgrass — all are prime candidates for undergoing Daniell’s process, the goal of which is to relegate gasoline to a secondary fuel source. Daniel also made mention of Florida’s renowned oranges: the process of making the state’s popular Natural Brand Orange Juice and other orange-based products results in enough orange peels from the Sunshine State alone to create as many as 200 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Daniel’s research team has set to work on other methods of reducing costs and making biofuels even more appealing. The team cloned genes from wood-rotting fungi or bacteria and successfully produced enzymes in tobacco plants. According to the University of Central Florida news room, multiple reasons were given for the use of tobacco as a means of enzyme production: it is not a food crop, approximately 40 metric tons of biomass are produced annually per acre of tobacco crops, and perhaps most appealing of all, creating an alternate use for tobacco could decrease its use for smoking.