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.



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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs