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Q & A: Coconut husks and shells

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
What is the material composition of the husk/shell of a coconut? If more then one base element exists then what is the percentage of the combination? I appreciate your response, thank you.
- Eric B. Nordmark (age 51)
U of I Alumni, Grayslake, IL USA
A:
Hi Eric,

Coconut husks and shells are made out of mostly the same kinds of materials that woods and other nut casings are made out of. These are living materials, and consist of water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, enzymes, and nucleic acids, like DNA and RNA, among other things. The biggest component of woods (and nearly all of what goes into paper) is a carbohydrate molecule called cellulose, which is chemically similar to starch and glucose. Cellulose molecules are long and rigid, and pack closely and bond tightly to one another, giving plants their firm structural support. Another important carbohydrate in coconut shells is lignin, which is hard to separate from the cellulose.

The main elemental ingredients are: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in carbohydrates. The proteins, fats, and genetic materials also include nitrogen and sulfur and small amounts of other elements as well (you'll probably find sodium, potassium, calcium, and many others in there in small amounts). For the carbohydrate cellulose, there are approximately equal numbers of carbon and oxygen atoms, and twice as many hydrogen atoms as carbon atoms.

Tom

(published on 10/22/2007)

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