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Will your next car be made from paper and plastic?

Plant-based and other lightweight materials promise a more eco-friendly ride

Daio Paper's lightweight, plant-based cellulose nanofiber material is used in the doors and hood of this race car. (Photo courtesy of Samurai Speed racing team)

TOKYO -- The race to develop new materials for cars is heating up among chemical and paper producers in Japan, as automakers look for ways to make their products more fuel efficient and eco-friendly.

Daio Paper has begun incorporating its cellulose nanofiber, or CNF, into auto body panels. The plant-based material is made by breaking down pulp fibers to nanometer scale, or one billionth of a meter, and forming them into sheets. The resulting material is both lightweight and strong: It is only a fifth as heavy as steel and has five times its strength.

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