Making paint from orange peels

Marc Dubé in a chemical and biological engineering laboratory.
Marc Dubé is on a mission to paint the world green

In his Faculty of Engineering laboratory, Professor Marc Dubé seeks to produce polymers in a more sustainable way, using some surprising raw materials

Using limonene, a substance extracted from orange peels, rather than toxic petroleum to help bind paint products is just one trick up uOttawa Faculty of Engineering professor Marc Dubé’s sleeve. For some time now, Dubé and his team have been faithful followers of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. These include reducing harmful solvents, using renewable materials and designing products to be biodegradable. Dubé is on a mission to wean the world off its reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels in the production of paints, plastics, resins and adhesives, as well as off the fuel itself. Cooking oil and common wood waste such as dead trees and yard clippings are a sustainable resource; the more these can be used, the fewer pollutants in the environment, he says.


Dubé has found unusual sources for waste materials. When he was researching new ways of producing biodiesel fuel, he would pick up vats of used frying oil from a popular Ottawa restaurant. Even what’s left over from the oil conversion process, glycerol, can be mined to make absorbent hydrogels for diapers, he says. More recently, Dubé has supervised thesis work by master’s student Yujie Zhang and PhD student Shanshan Ren on combining different types of limonene molecules. Limonene can also be useful in sticky tape or glue. Dubé is clearly teaching future generations to recycle the well-known “waste not, want not” credo and set forth to make the world just a little bit greener.



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