Gallery: Banana Plastic: Researchers Create Strong Plastic from Fruit t...

 

Bananas are good for a lot more than just potassium. They can remove toxic metals from water and be used to make maxi pads for women in developing countries or underwear for men. Now a group of scientists from Sao Paulo State University have developed a way to use the fibers from bananas, pineapples, and other fruits to create incredibly strong, lightweight plastics. The nanocellulose fibers make a plastic that’s up to four times stronger and 30 percent lighter than petroleum-based plastics.

In a statement, the lead researcher, Alcides Leão, said that the fruit-based plastics rival Kevlar, a plastic used to create bullet proof vests. It’s also more resistant to heat, gasoline, and water, making it the perfect plastic to use in cars and other vehicles. Not only would the plastic be less likely to catch fire in a crash, but the product’s light weight would equate to better fuel economy. Plus, the plastic is made entirely from renewable materials and is biodegradable.

To create the plastic, the leaves and stems of useable plants are cooked in a device similar to a pressure cooker, creating a talcum powder-like substance. Leão said that the best fruit for the job seems to be the pineapple, but bananas, coconut shells, agave, and curaua (a plant related to pineapple) all work well, too. One pound of nanocellulose can produce 100 pounds of plastic.

Unfortunately, nanocellulosic plastic would be very expensive to mass produce. However, if the auto industry embraced the technology, production would rise, ultimately bringing down the cost. The researchers are currently focusing on the new plastic being used to create plastic car parts like bumpers and dashboards, but they hope that it can be a viable substitute for aluminum and steel parts as well. Very a-peel-ing!

Via Dvice

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3 Comments

  1. mrdegior April 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Reguarding strength, with fruit based plastics being 4 times stronger; would it be possible to use it to replace building material such as lumber? Could you create “plastic lumber” that is strong enough to build homes with?

  2. kedwa30 March 31, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    “To create the plastic, the leaves and stems of useable plants are cooked in a device similar to a pressure cooker, creating a talcum powder-like substance. ”

    They don’t use the fruit, just the parts we don’t eat. If anything, this would spur farmers to grow more of these fruits just for the leaves and it might drive down the price of the fruit. Of course there will be farmers that harvest before fruit matures just so they can fit in more crops and this will reduce the amount of food producing farmers and land. Harvesting the leaves and whole plants rather than just the fruit will have a negative impact on the soil since there will no longer be plant material to till under making compost.
    There is no doubt in my mind that ethanol is a mistake when there are many better technologies available and many others still surfacing. It seems to be that Bush favored ethanol as a way to funnel money to his supporters, not because it was the best choice.

  3. caeman March 30, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Rock on. Bring it on, replace the petroleum plastics. Question: What effect will this have on food crops? The big complaint with ethanol is that it replaces food crops with energy crops, leading to a shortage of food. If this technology takes off, is my kid’s supply of bananas going to be threatened?

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