Scientists in Brazil have come up with an idea that isn’t totally bananas, but close. They propose to build a “greener” car by making it out of fruit. Well, certain parts of the car, anyway. It is said they have figured out a way to use the fiber from fruit plants like pineapples and bananas to reinforce plastics that are used to make cars and other products.

The study for this fruity idea is led by Alcides Leão, Ph.D and, according to this release, he says that even delicate fruits like bananas contain fibers that are ultra-strong and useful in reinforcing plastics. These “nano-cellulose” fibers are apparently just about as stiff as Kevlar but, unlike Kevlar and other plastics which are man-made from petroleum or natural gas, nano-cellulose fibers are natural and renewable.

Cellulose Nanofibers
image via Cornell University

We’ve been using cellulose for ages. It’s the main material that makes up wood and, ultimately, paper. What scientists have figured out more recently is that if wood is more intensely processed, it yields super tiny, or nano, cellulose so miniscule that 50,000 could be lined up across the width of a human hair. These nano fibers can be used to reinforce plastics in much the same way that glass and carbon fibers are conventionally used today. .

Leão says the fibers are 30 percent lighter and 3-4 times stronger…than what, exactly, he did not say. We assume he meant conventional plastics. Regardless, the notion that these extra light, super strong fibers could be used to make car parts like dashboards, bumpers and body panels is encouraging because it would not only make the car stronger, but much lighter as well. That would increase the efficiency of the drive train and require less power per required distance. Essentially, the car would be made from greener materials and operate in a greener fashion, too.

Leão postulates that nano-cellulose plastics could be implemented in car manufacturing in as little as two years. Outside of car parts, the ultra-strong, exceedingly light-weight plastics could be used just about anywhere conventional plastics are used today. Speakers, bullet-proof vests and kitchen appliances could one day be made out of pineapples and coconuts.

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