March 23, 2012 at 2:29 PM ET
Go on a tropical beach vacation and chances are you'll sip a piña colada or a mango passion as you watch the waves lap at the shore. The waste generated to make the key ingredient in those cocktails could be used to power up rural communities in South and Southeast Asia, a study suggests.
Coconut husks and mango pits are tough, inedible and high in lignin. These properties make them unusable as feed for livestock or fertility for soil, but great as a fuel source of bio-energy plants, according to a recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Building such plants in off-grid locations in parts of South and South-east Asia where coconut and mango agriculture is common could help bring electricity to people who currently have limited access to it, the researchers found.
The biggest beneficiaries include Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as some regions of India, study co-author Tom Shearin, a systems analyst at the University of Kentucky, told SciDev Net.
That sounds like a promising alternative to the growing appetite for coal in the region, though the study authors note scaling up the technology and infrastructure to make coconut and mango power a reality will "face economic, technical, and social challenges," SciDev Net noted.
Still, it's an idea worth considering while sucking down a tropical cocktail.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.