The cars of the future could be made from pineapples or bananas, Brazilian scentists say.
They believe their new automotive plastic, based on nano-sized cellulose fibers derived from fruit, is stronger, lighter and more eco-friendly than those now in use. Some versions are claimed to be as strong as Kevlar.
"The properties of these plastics are incredible. They are light, but very strong — 30 per cent lighter and three to four times stronger," says study leader Alcides Leão.
WWe believe that a lot of car parts, including dashboards, bumpers, side panels, will be made of nano-sized fruit fibers in the future. For one thing, they will help reduce the weight of cars and that will improve fuel economy."
The nano-cellulose reinforced plastics also have mechanical advantages over conventional automotive plastics, says Leão, including greater resistance to damage from heat, spilled gasoline, water and oxygen. He says the new materials could be in use within two years.
The scientsts concede that their manufacturing process is expensive, but say that it takes just one pound of nano-cellulose to produce 100 pounds of super-strong, lightweight plastic.
"So far, we're focusing on replacing automotive plastics," says Leão. "But in the future, we may be able to replace steel and aluminum automotive parts using these plant-based nanocellulose materials."
Similar plastics also show promise for future use in medical applications, such as replacement materials for artificial heart valves, artificial ligaments, and hip joints, he says.