Researchers at Baylor University have developed a new way to transform coconut husks into automotive interiors. They say that it is possible to make trunk liners, floorboards and car-door interior covers using fibers from the outer husks of coconuts, replacing the synthetic polyester fibers typically used in composite materials.
"Why coconuts? That's the first thing people ask," The Washington Times quoted engineering professor Walter Bradley, who is leading the research, as saying.
"We knew coconuts were abundant - about 50 billion grown a year. But 96 percent of those coconuts are grown by poor farmers, not big plantations. We wanted to figure out a way to make things better for them, to create a viable new market for them," Bradley added.
Bradley said that the farmers, an estimated 11 million around the world, make about 500 dollars a year. If the coconut car interiors gain traction, their incomes would triple, he added.
The 'mechanical properties' of coconut fibers are as good or better than synthetic or polyester fibers. They also are less expensive and the stuff of the greenest dreams.
"They're better for the environment because the coconut husks would have otherwise been thrown away. Coconuts also do not burn well or emit toxic fumes, which is crucial in passing 10 safety-performance tests required for commercial applications," Bradley said.