You probably know by now that hemp is a multipurpose plant. It can be used to make all kinds of products, from nutritional supplements to biofuel. Its transformation potential seems limitless. One more thing to add to this long list is its ability to be an alternative for steel.
This new way to use hemp is comparable to fiberglass and could be called "fiber grass" or hemp composite. With the hemp fiber, we can now manufacture stronger and longer-lasting types of plastics and steel.
The automobile industry will probably be the first one to profit from the potential of this strong durable material. Most car parts made of regular plastic and steel could easily be replaced by this new hemp material.
This advanced technology has been put to the test and the hemp composite actually showed to be stronger than steel. This unusual approach to hemp fiber needs twice the amount of pressure it takes to break or crack steel, to be affected. It also has an impressive mend capability, meaning, it can go back to its original shape, six times more than steel, to be exact.
On the plus side, it is also much cheaper to manufacture this hemp "fiber grass" than produce steel.
The potential of plants had been foreseen by the famous Henry Ford. In 1941, he introduced a car ten times stronger than steel, made mostly of soybeans and many other kinds of plant-based fiber, like wheat, hemp, flax, and ramie. Ford's intention with this car was to help the local American farmers during the Great Depression.
A lot of research has been led to prove the exciting properties of plants and end the monopoly of steel in the production industry. In 1958, Roger Bacon found out that graphite "whiskers" offer 3 times more stiffness and a ten-time better resistance to traction than steel. This discovery contributed to the development of carbon fibers. Hemp composite is often compared to carbon fibers, but it has been proven to have even better resistance to traction (tensile strength), in a recent study. Scientifics agree that they are both very powerful materials and that they both have different mechanical properties making them suitable for different applications.
But steel has more than strength/ resistance to offer. Steel is also a good electricity conductor. In 2004 graphene was discovered. This new player is a type of carbon, although its thickness is as small as the one of an atom. After further research graphene was found to be a hundred times stronger than steel and had better electricity conduction than copper. On the other hand, recent investigations revealed that hemp was able to mimic the qualities of graphene…
Graphene is mostly used in super energy batteries and electric car batteries. Manufacturing graphene is excessively costly. Again, hemp composite is cheap to produce and its high energy storage capacity (as much as graphene) gives it a remarkable competitive advantage.
Hemp has the power to make a significant difference in the way we produce and consume things today. In our fast-evolving world, it is imperative for us to find new, renewable, lasting technologies. The Farm Bill of October 2018 allowed the development of many new industries involving hemp as their raw material. This Bill offers a plethora of opportunities for us to make serious changes in the years to come.