Automotive Parts Might Be Built From Coconuts
Researchers from the above-mentioned university are developing a technology to use coconut fiber that could replace synthetic polyester fibers in compression molded composites. The coconut fiber might be used for building trunk liners, floorboards and interior door covers on cars.
The story started when the team of researchers identified a variety of low-cost products made from coconuts in poor coastal regions. Coconuts appear as a renewable resource in all countries near the Equator, but coconut farmers are not making big bucks out of this business. With their new discovery, the Baylor team hopes to almost triple the coconut farmers' annual income, leading to a better life in the poor regions.
"What we hope to do is create a viable market for the poor coconut farmer," said Dr. Walter Bradley, Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor, who is leading the project. "Our goal is to create millions of pounds of demand at a much better price."
In a world with a limited number of resources, the solution comes as a real breakthrough for the auto industry. On the one hand, coconuts are relatively cheap raw materials and on the other, they are the ecological alternative to plastic used for the cars' interiors... on the condition that the coconut fiber passes the series of certification tests to see if it matches the necessary safety performance specifications.
However, the Baylor researchers are extremely optimistic about using coconut for building automotive parts as they claim the mechanical properties of coconut fibers are even better than synthetic and polyester fibers. More importantly, coconuts don't burn very well or give off toxic fumes, which is vital in passing tests.
The Baylor team is already collaborating with Hobbs Bonded Fibers, a Waco-based fiber processing company which happens to be the supplier of unwoven fiber mats to four major car companies.
Let's keep our fingers crossed for if they pass the tests, we will be surrounded by coconuts when driving, making us dream about being somewhere on a deserted island far away from the madding crowd...