Orange peels could float Florida in ethanol
Could we soon be gassing up our cars with citrus?
Tue, May 04, 2010 at 07:37 PM
OK, not really float the whole state, but Dr. Henry Daniell, a professor of genetic engineering at the University of Central Florida, believes orange peels alone could be used to produce 200 million gallons of ethanol. His method would employ a mixture of plant-based enzymes to transform the peels into sugar, which then would be fermented to make ethanol. Currently the main source of material for making ethanol in the U.S. is corn.
Florida’s enormous citrus output would make it a viable candidate for ethanol production if Daniell’s ideas can be implemented. He remarked on the potential: “This could be a turning point where vehicles could use this fuel as the norm for protecting our air and environment for future generations.”
His research group created enzymes for breaking down the orange peels by cloning fungi and bacteria, and then growing their genes in tobacco plants. This new process reduced the cost of enzyme production (compared with making them in a lab) by 1,000 times. Their enzyme conversion to sugar for ethanol process can also be applied to sugarcane, switch grass and straw.
If successful, producing a large amount of ethanol within the state could be a boon for the local economy, providing jobs and a lower-emission fuel to reduce air pollution. Of course it would also help to reduce consumption of foreign oil, a practice that is sensitive politically and economically.
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