Bananas the Key to More Fuel-Efficient Cars?

Their fibers can create a light, strong nanocellulosic plastic
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2011 4:31 PM CDT
These bananas are rather green ... like the cars they could help make.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – It may sound a little bananas, but it turns out that, well, bananas could help create more fuel-efficient cars. Brazilian scientists have come up with a way of using fibers from that fruit, as well as pineapples and coconuts, to make a lighter, stronger plastic. In fact, it's 30% lighter, according to researcher Alcides Leão, which means it could be used to drastically reduce the weight of cars, which would in turn squeeze more miles out of every ever-more-expensive gallon of gas.

You'd almost think these so-called nanocellulose fibers grew from magic beans, to hear Wired report about them: They rival Kevlar in strength, are a renewable resource, and can make a plastic that's more resistant to heat and water and is biodegradable. Leão thinks the plastic could work its way into bumpers, dashboards, and body panels, perhaps in as soon as two years. The downside: It's expensive, though Wired notes we don't know exactly how expensive, since the researchers have been cooking up only small quantities of it in their lab.

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