|Photo: Arif Ali, AFP / Getty Images|
Proving nature is, in fact, often better than anything coming off a conveyor belt, we may soon have cars made from pineapples, bananas and coconuts. All of these fruits have fibrous cellulose (nanocellulose) which rivals widely-used Kevlar in strength, reports Wired. Plus, the nanocellulose plastic is lighter than many widely used materials and also biodegradable.
The material would be renewable and decomposable (as long as it's not combined with petroleum-based plastics) -- and a lighter car means a lower gas bill. (Ford is already hoping to slim their vehicles by 250 to 750 pounds, notes Wired.) In a statement, Alcides Leão, a researcher at São Paulo State University, says the material is "30 percent lighter and three to four times stronger." That's because a plant's main cell wall, where cellulose is found, can be processed to yield fibers so tight that 50,000 fit within the diameter of a human hair.
Leão and his team are still working in small quantities in the lab so there's no telling yet how much nanocellulose plastic will cost, but it won't be cheap. Though if it takes off in the automotive world, high production would knock down the price. And it's cost-effective: A pound of nanocellulose yields 100 pounds of plastic.
Once this technology catches on, watch out -- Leão says he's working on steel and aluminum alternatives next.