Malaysian Researchers Build Drone Parts from Pineapple Leftovers

fibers from pineapple leaves used as disposable drone parts

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Malaysians have used pineapple waste to develop disposable drone parts, Reuters reported. The prototypes are made from the fiber of pineapple leaves and are far cheaper than their commercial counterparts. Recyclable materials give new life to old things.

Aluminum cans for recycling
Once aluminum has been recycled, its properties aren’t lost as it continually goes through the recycling process. Photo By Don Pablo / Shutterstock

According to Reuters, a research team in Malaysia has found new tech in an unlikely place. “Malaysian researchers have developed a method to transform the fiber found in normally discarded pineapple leaves to make a strong material that can be used to build the frames for unmanned aircraft, or drones,” the article said.

“The project […] has been trying to find sustainable uses for pineapple waste generated by farmers in Hulu Langat, an area about 65 km (40 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.”

The article goes on to state that drones made from the material have higher strength-to-weight ratios than synthetically made drones. They’re also cheaper, lighter, and biodegradable. Recycling reduces waste and reuses materials from other common objects.

Progressive Metal

Aluminum is a commonly recycled metal—in fact, it’s a very common metal, in general.

“Although it’s the third most common element in the Earth’s crust, it virtually always exists in chemical combination with other elements, especially oxygen and silicon,” said Dr. David W. Ball, Professor of Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio. “If we want to use aluminum, the metal, we have to refine it from its ores. Aluminum can’t be smelted like iron can; the chemical reactions that occur in smelting just don’t work the same way for aluminum.”

Dr. Ball said that because of this, aluminum was at one point very rare and very expensive. However, in the 1880s, two scientists independently discovered a way to extract aluminum using electricity, lowering its cost to just 1/60th of what it had been at its peak. Now we use aluminum in most vehicles, electrical lines, and—in the United States alone—100 billion soda and beer cans per year.

“Recycling aluminum is rather easy,” Dr. Bell said. “Simply melt it, remove the small amount of stuff called dross that isn’t aluminum, then test the aluminum for the presence of other metals, then add any additional amounts of metals to get the specific alloy you want.”

Money Grows on Trees

Paper is also heavily recycled. Everyone knows wet paper turns to mush, and that’s the key to recycling it.

“Paper is a thin material of compressed cellulose fibers, usually obtained from wood pulp or other plant fibers like cotton,” Dr. Ball said. “Initially, the paper to be recycled is separated into several types, like newsprint and cardboard. Then the paper is added to a huge vat of water and blended to break the paper up into small pieces and eventually into a thick slurry of individual cellulose fibers.

“This process is called pulping.”

Once the paper has been pulped, it’s screened to remove items like staples, paper clips, and the adhesive that comes on the back of sticky notes. It also goes through a deinking process to wash the ink away. When the slurry is clean enough, it’s bleached with chlorine, washed once more, then laid out, compressed, and dried into new sheets.

The Malaysian researchers’ innovations with disposable drones shows that recycling still holds untapped potential.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

Dr. Ball is a Professor of Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Dr. David W. Ball contributed to this article. Dr. Ball is a Professor of Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio. He received his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Rice University.