A team at Baylor University has made 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.
The approach has potential because coconuts are an abundant, renewable resource in all countries near the equator, including the Philippines, Indonesia and India. The husks are burned or thrown away, generating garbage. This is the first time that coconut fibers have been used to make these automotive products, said Walter Bradley, an engineering professor who is leading the project.
Preliminary testing shows that the coconut composites can meet the specifications for industrial tests, Bradley said. In fact, the mechanical properties of coconut fibers are just as good, if not better, than synthetic and polyester fibers when used in automotive parts, he said. Also, coconuts also do not burn very well or give off toxic fumes, which is key in passing tests required for their use in commercial automotive parts.
Sounds good to me. It's a renewable resource, and it will reduce the need for petroleum to make synthetic materials. If the idea pans out, I'll gladly buy a car with coconut composites in it.