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Coconut shells and ash could soon compete for becoming the new age building materials. A breakthrough by researchers from the Brazil-based Technological Research Institute involves the use of these two materials to promote low-cost housing ( IDRC Report , Vol 23, No 4).

Says Vahan Agopyan, the brain behind the technology of the coconut fibre, "It is less of a health hazard compared to asbestos fibre and less expensive than fibreglass.' The ash acts as a perfect binder for hardening the mortar and is also less alkaline than the conventional cement and will, therefore, not affect the durability of the fruit fibre.