News / Science & Technology

Mango Pits, Coconut Shells Could Generate Electricity

Fruit shells and pits contain lots of energy

Mango pits and coconut shells can be used to generate electricity, especially in poorer regions of the world, according to a new report.
Mango pits and coconut shells can be used to generate electricity, especially in poorer regions of the world, according to a new report.

Multimedia

Audio

More than 1.5 billion people don't have access to electricity, according to the United Nations Development Program. That means, among other things, that school children with homework to do are left in the dark.

But some poor, rural areas that lack electricity may find they can generate it from something many do have plenty of: coconut shells and fruit pits.

'Very little waste'

University of Kentucky plant scientist Seth DeBolt and colleagues wanted to find a fuel that people in poor, rural areas could use to generate electricity. While on a study trip in rural Indonesia, he was struck by something he saw everywhere he went:

“The incredible efficiency at which agricultural products are used in Indonesia," DeBolt says. "There’s very little waste.”

Little waste means little left over that could be used for fuel. Farmers grew mangoes and jackfruit above coffee bushes and livestock fodder. Everything they grew was used for something. Even the scraps of fruit were fed to chickens. So growing a separate fuel crop would take land away from food crops, something DeBolt definitely wanted to avoid.

“The people at most risk with respect to energy poverty, typically they’re the same people who have food insecurity issues as it is," he says. "And any change in availability would be most detrimental to that group of people.”

Lots of energy

But there is one promising item DeBolt found in abundance that would not create competition between food and fuel.

“It’s the shell of a coconut, or the pit of a mango. And these are generally thrown out.”

Though you can’t eat it and you can’t feed it to livestock, DeBolt says a coconut shell or mango pit has a lot of energy in it.

“It compares roughly to low- to moderate-grade coal in its heating value," he says, "which is excellent.”

The same is true for the pit of an olive, peach or cherry, or the shell of an almond or walnut. All that is needed is a way to release the energy.

Turning rice hulls into electricity

DeBolt says a company in India called Husk Power is using small generators in local villages to turn rice hulls into electricity. They use a process called gasification: heating plant matter in a low-oxygen chamber releases gases that can be burned in an engine that spins a power-generating turbine.

DeBolt says his team saw the possibilities for coconut shells and mango pits.

“Hey, well these crops are growing here and these are the areas where there is potential for energy poverty to be alleviated at least in part by these small-scale production systems.”

In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DeBolt and his colleagues used some rough calculations of coconut, mango and other fruit production and the efficiency of the gas generators. And they found in a country like Indonesia, for example, these systems could provide as much as 13 percent of the national energy needs.

Sustained energy supply

“If that’s concentrated on rural, decentralized facilities - not the big cities, which generally have a sustained energy supply - then it may have a more sustained impact on those communities.”

Other tropical countries with significant crops of coconuts, mangoes or other similar fruits could benefit, too.

However, DeBolt cautions that it is not a cure-all. There are technical issues, including how to safely handle the hazardous waste by-products of gasification. And startup funds can be hard to come by in the countries that could most benefit.

Still, he sees potential for coconut power to at least help in alleviating rural poverty.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid