Time is ripe to build car bodies with fruit fibres
Cars made from pineapples and bananas could soon be among the fruits of the green revolution, it has been revealed.
Scientists in Brazil have used fibres from the plants to create a generation of super-strong automotive plastics.
They believe the material may not only be used to build car bodies, but also engine parts.
Manufacturers are testing the plastics and could be using them in cars within two years, say the researchers.
Dr Alcides Leao, from Sao Paulo State University, said re- inforcing plastic with microscopic fibres from delicate fruits such as pineapples and bananas made them super-strong.
"The properties of these plastics are incredible," he told the American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, California.
"They are light, but very strong - 30 per cent lighter and three-to-four times stronger (than regular plastic). We believe that a lot of car parts, including dashboards, bumpers, side panels, will be made of nano-sized fruit fibres in the future. For one thing, they will help reduce the weight of cars, and that will improve fuel economy."
Some of the fibres were almost as stiff as Kevlar, the super-strong material used to make bullet-proof vests and lightweight armour, he said.
The fibre-reinforced plastics were also more impervious to heat, spilled petrol, water and oxygen than ordinary automotive plastics.
Fibres from wood have long been used to make paper. Recently scientists have discovered that intensive processing of wood releases ultra-small "nano" cellulose fibres so small that 50,000 could fit across the width of a single human hair.
These ultra-thin fibres can be used to strengthen other materials in the same way that glass fibre is produced by embedding fine strands of glass in plastic.
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