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Fruits Can Be a Source For Automotive Plastics

The research, which was presented at the most recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, claims that those organic fibers are stronger, lighter and more eco-friendly than the materials in use today.

"The properties of these plastics are incredible," said Alcides Leão. "They are light, but very strong  30 % lighter and 3-to-4 times stronger. We 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 researchers also noted that nano-cellulose reinforced plastics feature greater resistance to damage from heat, spilled gasoline, water, and oxygen when compared to conventional plastics. To prepare the nano-fibers, the scientists treat the leaves and stems of pineapples or other plants into a device "similar to a pressure cooker". They add undisclosed chemicals to the plants and heat the mixture over several cycles, which results in a "fine material that resembles talcum powder". The scientists said that the process is costly, but one pound of nano-cellulose is enough to create 100 pounds of "super-strong, lightweight plastic."

 "So far, we're focusing on replacing automotive plastics," said Leão. "But in the future, we may be able to replace steel and aluminum automotive parts using these plant-based nanocellulose materials."