Car Parts Made of Coconuts?

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The hundreds of millions of cars on the world's roads need billions of pounds of steel and glass. This puts a strain on steel and glass manufacturers. And on the environment. Not to worry. Engineers have come up with an alternative to some of the steel and glass we'll need for our new Toyotas and Chevys. Coconuts.

Material scientists and mechanical engineers at Baylor University wanted to help the 11 million poor coconut farmers near the equator. The farmers grow about 5,000 coconuts each year, and the money they make comes from selling the coconut oil. The shells and husks are left behind. Engineers became particularly interested in the fibers inside the coconuts husks, which can be used to create trunk liners, car ceilings, dashboards, door panels and floorboards.

Engineers replaced polyester fiber with milled coconut fiber and mixed it with recycled polypropylene to create a non-woven fabric composite. Heating the fibers produces a moldable, durable liner. The new trunk liner is resistant to fire, fungus, doesn't smell, and is far less expensive. The price for virgin polyester is 60 cents a pound. Recycled poly is 47 cents, and coconut fiber is 40 cents a pound.

Using coconut husks has the potential to triple a farmer's income in one year and creates more jobs. In addition, transitioning to coconut trunk liners could save two million barrels of oil per year. The whole idea is sustainable, environmentally friendly and benefits consumers. It's a win-win for everyone.

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.

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