Bananas could be gold

COFFS Harbour’s remaining banana growers could be sitting on an unexpected goldmine.

In a worldwide release yesterday scientists in Brazil said they have used fibres from bananas to create a new generation of super-strong automotive plastics.

They believe the material may in future not only be used to build car bodies but also engine parts.

Manufacturers are already testing the plastics and could be using them in cars within two years, the researchers say.

Dr Alcides Leao, from Sao Paulo State University, said reinforcing plastic with microscopic fibres from delicate fruits such as bananas and pineapples made them super-strong.

“The properties of these plastics are incredible,” he told the 241st meetingof the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California.

“They are light, but strong, 30% lighter and three to four times stronger (than regular plastic). We believe that a lot of car parts, including dashboards, bumpers, side panels, will be made of nano-sized fruit fibres in the future. For one thing, they will help reduce the weight of cars, and that will improve fuel economy.”

Some of the fibres were almost as stiff as Kevlar, the super-strong material used to make bulletproof vests and lightweight armour, he said.

The fibre-reinforced plastics were also more impervious to heat, spilled petrol, water and oxygen than ordinary automotive plastics.

The plastics also had potential in medical applications such as artificial heart valves, ligaments and hip joints, he said.

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