That’s what hemp is – a supermaterial that has been uses since ancient times. Perhaps you already knew about the textile uses of the material, the possibility of making paper, rope, sails, clothes and even shoes from the fibre. But that is just a small part of the many, many uses for hemp. And today new exciting possibilities are still being added.
Hemp for industrial uses comes from the same Cannabis Sativa plant as the one with drug use, but in this case the strains that contain hardly any psychoactive substances are selected, though even so it’s usage is not legal in some countries. It is one of the most fast-growing plants in existence, and was spun into fibre for the first time some 50,000 years ago.
Hemp seeds can be eaten as they are, they are a common ingredient in granola, or turned into flour or sprouts. The seeds can also be pressed into oil, used in cooking, cosmetics or for making plastics or even biofuels.
More recently hemp has been finding new areas of application in the construction industry as fibre boards, building blocks and thermal and acoustical insulation. Test are being conducted to create building panels based on a mixture of hemp fibre and lime. These panels are being designed to be rapid to install, with optimal hygrothermal performance to create energy and resource-efficient buildings.
Today new scientific experiments is being done with the inner bast fibres of the hemp plant, a part that is normally not used today, but left for landfill. These “waste” fibres can turned into nanosheets and used as supercapacitors for the new energy-storing devices of the future. Existing batteries are slow to charge and to discharge, while supercapacitors can discharge all their load very rapidly . This makes them ideal as battery storage for electric cars as they will also be much quicker to charge.
Normally supercapacitors are made with graphene, which is very expensive to produce. Now using leftovers from hemp production, a perhaps even better material can be made, for just a small fraction of the cost.