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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs