Fruit fibres could help make cars
Cars made from pineapples and bananas could soon be among the fruits of the green revolution.
Scientists in Brazil have used fibres from the plants to create a new generation of super-strong automotive plastics.
They believe the material may in future not only be used to build car bodies, but also engine parts.
Manufacturers are already 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 reinforcing 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 241st meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California.
"They are light, but very strong - 30% 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.
Plant fibres from wood have been used for centuries 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.