The Baylor researchers have used coconut fibers to replace polyester in the trunk liners, floorboards and the interior of doors, according to LiveScience.
Coconuts grow in large numbers all over the world, from Miami to Malaysia, and are usually harvested for their milk. The husk, which surrounds the shell of a coconut, is almost always thrown away.
"We are trying to turn trash into cash to help poor coconut farmers," Walter Bradley, an engineering professor at Baylor who is leading the research, said.
Many coconut farmers live on just $500 a year. The team at Baylor is hoping that their breakthrough will help drive the price of coconuts up and in turn, increase the profits of farmers.
Initial tests have shown that composites made with coconut fiber are strong enough for use in industrial applications. Bradley says that coconut fiber composites are actually better than the synthetic or polyester fibers currently used in cars and trucks. Coconut husks do not burn well or give off toxic fumes, which means they are well suited for use in automobiles.
Replacing polyester with coconuts should catch on quick. Coconut fiber is socially and environmentally responsible, both of which are popular selling points in today’s market.