Plastic is one of mankind's great inventions. It's more or less impossible to get by in the modern world without owning or using something made from one type of plastic or another - from the computer you're reading this on to food packaging and beyond.

Cars, too. Have a quick think about the car sitting outside your house and how much of it is constructed from plastics of some sort. The engine bay and interior will be full of them. If you happen to drive a Smart ForTwo, even much of the bodywork is constructed from plastic.

Bottom line: Plastics are big business. The only trouble is, they aren't particularly eco-friendly to manufacture, so news of a new bio-plastic made from fruit fibers is right up our alley.

Scientists in Brazil have developed a way of using the nanocellulose fibers from fruits such as bananas and pineapples to create a plastic that is lighter and stronger than the synthetic equivalent.

Lighter and stronger - two terms that are sure to prick the ears of car manufacturers, striving to make their future vehicles not only quicker and safer, but more economical, environmentally friendly and cheaper, too. Light weight benefits performance and economy, strength means safer cars and less material required - which in turn reduces weight.

Alcides Leão, researcher at Sao Paulo State University, says that nanocellulosic plastic is also more resistant to heat, gasoline and water, giving it a wide variety of potential automotive uses. At the moment the intention is to use it to replace current automotive plastics, but the light weight and strength - up to three or four times stronger than current plastics - could mean it's suitable for replacing some metal components.

Because the fibers are natural, the plastic is also biodegradable, and renewable too. It's expensive at the moment, but that's only because it's being produced in such limited quantities. As soon as carmakers catch on to the idea, the cost could significantly reduce as makers clamour to licence the technology to construct ever greener vehicles.

We'd like to remind our readers though that the dashboard of your future vehicles probably still won't be too appetizing, even if it is made from bananas...

[Wired via Gizmodo]