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!