Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants. Hemp requires no pesticides, consumes far less water than cotton, can be harvested in 3 months and returns nutrients into the soil after harvest.
According to a Stockholm Environment Institute study, hemp requires just 40% of the ecological footprint and 20% of the water as compared to cotton. Hemp paper has the potential to reduce deforestation as 1 ac (0.4 ha) of hemp will produce as much pulp for paper as 4 ac (1.6 ha) of trees over a 20 year period. Hemp makes its case in a world that’s yearning for things more natural and organic.
Hemp fabric, going back to 8000 BC, was found in Mesopotamia (current day Iraq), but for possibly the last 12,000 years hemp has been grown and processed for its fibres and food. Centuries later, hemp fibre and oil also went into making riggings, pendants, pennants, sails, and oakum. Maps, logs, and even the bibles that sailors brought on board were all made using hemp paper.
In the USA, from 1937, hemp was strictly regulated by the Marijuana Tax Act, largely due to confusion with other kinds of cannabis. Hemp could only be grown through specially issued government tax stamps, making any type of possession/transfer without a tax stamp illegal. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act went into effect abolishing the taxation approach of the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively making all cultivation of cannabis illegal by setting a zero tolerance for THC. Thus it went out of favour.
Since the late 1990s there has been a revival of industrial hemp in France, Europe and Canada. This is due to rising oil prices, material recycling requirements and environmental awareness. Every part of the plant is useful — fibre, stalk, seed, flower, everything — and lends itself to applications as diverse as clothing, construction, paper, composites, health foods, body care and biofuel. For example, Hempcrete or Hemplime is bio-composite material, a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime (possibly including natural hydraulic lime, sand, or pozzolans) which is used as a material for construction and insulation.
France is currently the European leader with an annual hemp (chanvre) production of 55 000 tons (100 000 tonnes in the European Union) and the world’s largest variety of certified industrial seeds. The European Community subsidized the cultivation of non-psychotropic hemp varieties from 1988 onwards. After reaching a minimum level around the 1960s, with less than 600 ha cultivated, hemp cultivation in France now occupies 31,000 ac (12,500 ha), or 0.03% of the agricultural area used.
Created in 2013 the LCBio association is based in the Pays de Caux in Normandy, an area known to be one of the most suitable in the world for growing hemp and flax. LCBio brings together organic flax and hemp producers and processors according to three colleges of members: organic farmers, cooperative and private enterprises and partner institutions. Flax and hemp are two fibers which can be grown and treated under the same conditions.
The association also sets itself the task of creating a textile flax industry that complies with the Bio and GOTS label and of determining a technical itinerary for hemp, whose cultivation is undergoing a revival, in order to obtain a straw that can be scutched on the linen tools and a quality of fibre that meets the requirements of the textile industry. Eventually, LCBio hopes to be able to set up complete French organic flax and hemp textile chains.
Cavac Biomatériaux at Sainte-Gemme-la-Plaine near Luçon in the Vendée is part of a cooperative producing items in hemp and flax, grown inside a range of 60 mi (100 km) around the factory by farmers from the cooperative. Cavac Biomatériaux has three 100% automatic producing lines and a 40,360 ft² (3,750 m²) drying barn.
Elsewhere in France, Jean Foyer, creator of Qairos Energie in the Sarthe region has devised a solution where fields of hemp plants will become a source of hydrogen.
The harvested hemp is crushed and heated to a very high temperature. Heat transforms it into gas from which methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide can be extracted. This process is non-polluting and without waste.
Each gas extracted is then resold. Synthetic methane is injected into France’s national gas network. Hydrogen is converted into electricity in fuel cells for vehicles, for example. And the locally produced and green CO2 is sold to the food industry
Six first “pioneers” have signed a contract with Qairos for an area of 125 acres (50 hectares) for 2021. The objective is to achieve, for a perfect balance, 2,470 acres (1000 hectares) over a radius of 22miles (35 kilometres) around the first production unit at the Le Mans metropolitan hub.
If successful, 150 farmers from the Fermiers de Loué cooperative are ready to cultivate an area of 865 acres (350 hectares) in the first yearOn the Pacific Northwest, in the Coast Range of Oregon, Shannon Welsh and Angela Wartes-Kahl, working with local farmers, scientists, businesses, artisans, and partnering with Oregon State University have founded Fibrevolution to revive hemp and flax linen in their region.
Hemp clothes are made by CaVVaS Ltd. located in Cluj Napoca. The raw fiber is separated by traditional methods of water retting, breaking, scutching, and hackling. This produces the high quality long fiber that is first spun on special long fiber spinning equipment (up to 14 Nm) and then woven.
The main difference in the spinning process between hemp fibers processed using chemical methods and fibers from organic methods is generally the length of the hemp fiber and the spinning machines that are required to spin the long fiber organic hemp and the short fiber, chemically processed hemp. After the weaving process, the resulting loomstate fabrics are washed with ecological detergents or sometimes just with plain water and treated afterwards.
Drying temperature level differs from fabric to fabric, depending on its thickness, in order to avoid burning or weakening the strength of yarns’ structure.
The Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco), the Namrata Hemp Co, B.E. Hemp, Arture, Hempster and HempCann all make a whole range of products with raw materials are currently imported from overseas by these brands, with China and Italy being prominent suppliers.
Henry Ford’s Model T was famously made partly from hemp bioplastic and powered by hemp biofuel. During the 1960s, several million German Trabant 500 automobile were manufactured using “Baumwolle” (cotton) with a thermo-setting resin of plant origin.
In 2014, using a process known as hydrothermal synthesis, a team led by Dr David Mitlin of Clarkson University, New York, ‘cooked’ leftover hemp bark fibers (shiv) into carbon nanosheets (10-30 nm in thickness). They then recycled the fibers into “ultrafast” super capacitors whose energy density of 12 Wh/kg, can be achieved at a charge time less than six seconds. In a Volts by Amps curve of both the hemp and lithium batteries, the power underneath the hemp cell was a value of 31 while that of the lithium cell had a value of just 4.
Hemp outperformed graphene supercapacitors in energy storage by nearly 200% while hemp processing is 1,000 times cheaper than graphene processing. In 2018, Alternet Systems, Inc. announced that it would be teaming up with Mitlin to power motorbikes for its Texas-based ReVolt Electric Motorbikes subsidiary.
The company announced a hemp battery and motorcycle frame body initiative in conjunction with its longer-term plans to build electric delivery vehicles for the African market, beginning with a fleet order for an initial 50 electric motorcycles to be delivered in Texas. (www.alternetsystemsinc.com)
Panda Biotech in Dallas, Texas was formed after the passage of the federal Hemp Farming Act signed into law by former President Donald Trump on December 20, 2018. Panda Biotech has developed the most technologically advanced, highest capacity and first-of-its-kind industrial hemp decorticating equipment ever used to separate the fiber and cellulose from the stalk. This is based on smaller versions of proven decortication technology that have been used throughout Asia and Europe for decades.
In December 2019, Panda Biotech announced they were going to build a 255,000 ft² (23,700 m²) production facility called the Panda High Plains Hemp Gin at Shallowater, in Lubbock County, Texas, where production of high-quality, textile-grade fibre and premium cellulose was expected to start within 12 months.
The processed fiber and cellulose from industrial hemp will be used in the production of a multitude of products including textiles, a wide array of building materials, paper products, automobile composites, nanomaterials, bio-plastics and finishing products such as caulking, sealants, varnishes and paints.
With this, industrial hemp is poised to transform numerous multi-billion-dollar industries.
Discover Solution 186: Building blocks from paper sludge
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