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Originally published April 11 2011

Scientists discover way to create "green" cars from fruit fibers

by S. L. Baker, features writer

(NaturalNews) Nobody wants to end up with a car that's a proverbial problem-plagued "lemon". But if you are looking for a truly green car, you might consider buying one in a couple of years that's made out of bananas or pineapples.


This isn't a joke, even if it does sound a bit fruity.

It turns out that scientists in Brazil have discovered a highly effective way to turn fibers from these fruits and other plants into a new generation of automotive plastics that are stronger, lighter, and far more environmentally friendly than plastics currently used to make cars.

Alcides Leao, Ph.D., of Sao Paulo State University in Sao Paulo, Brazil, headed the research team that came up with the breakthrough. Dr. Leao recently described the innovative findings at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) held in Anaheim, California.

Dr. Leao explained that although bananas and pineapples may seem to be delicate, fibers made from these fruits are incredibly strong and can be used to reinforce eco-friendly new plastics. So just how strong are fruit fibers, really? Amazingly, some of these so-called nano-cellulose fibers are almost as stiff as Kevlar, the material famed for being extraordinarily tough.

Kevlar is so strong, in fact, that it is currently used in armor and bulletproof vests. However, nano-cellulose fibers are completely renewable -- unlike Kevlar and other traditional plastics, which are made from petroleum or natural gas.

"The properties of these plastics are incredible," Dr. Leao said in a statement to the media. "They are light, but very strong -- 30 per cent lighter and 3-to-4 times stronger (than conventional automotive plastics). We believe that a lot of car parts, including dashboards, bumpers, side panels, will be made of nano-sized fruit fibers in the future. For one thing, they will help reduce the weight of cars and that will improve fuel economy."

What's more, in addition to being far lighter, nano-cellulose reinforced plastics have mechanical advantages over conventional automotive plastics, according to Dr. Leao. For example, they have greater resistance to damage from heat, spilled gasoline, oxygen and water.

Are cars made from fruit fibers just some futuristic sci fi dream? Not at all. Automobile manufacturers are currently testing nano-cellulose-reinforced plastics. Dr. Leao stated that the results are so promising that he predicts these fruit-derived car parts will be used within two years.

"So far, we're focusing on replacing automotive plastics," Dr. Leao said in the media statement. "But in the future, we may be able to replace steel and aluminum automotive parts using these plant-based nanocellulose materials."

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