Brazilian researchers say fibers from plants can be used in automotive plastics that are lightweight yet tough, and eco-friendly. The technology was unveiled recently at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
According to team leader, Alcides Leão, the fibers used to strengthen the plastics could originate from fruits such as bananas and pineapples. Some of the nano-cellulose fibers are as stiff as Kevlar and used in bulletproof armor. The fibers are also renewable. They also protect from damage caused by heat, spilled gasoline, water, and oxygen.
Pineapple leaves and stems could provide nano-cellulose. The team is working at the Sao Paulo State University, Brazil. Curaua, a plant grown in South America also provides nano cellulose. Bananas, coir fibers found in coconut shells, typha or cattails, sisal fibers from the agave plant; and fique also provide nano cellulose.
The leaves and stems of pineapples or other plants are inserted into a device that resembles a pressure cooker. Certain chemicals are added to the plants and heated over multiple cycles, to create a material that looks like talcum powder. The process uses one pound of nano-cellulose to produce 100 pounds of strong, lightweight plastic.