Over a 20 year period, one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to 10 acres of trees. Companies like TreeFreeHemp (part of the Colorado Hemp Company) in Colorado and Green Field Paper Company of California sell paper made from hemp using as many locally-sourced materials as possible. In 2014, engineering professor David Mitlin of Clarkson University learned how to turn hemp fibers into carbon nanosheets, which could be used as electrodes for supercapacitors. The nanosheets resemble the structure of graphene, a semi-metal commonly used to make nanosheets and the strongest metal ever tested.
Mitlin’s carbon nanosheets actually store energy better than graphene and can be used for supercapacitors and batteries. While traditional graphene costs $2,000 per gram, the graphene-like hemp costs only $500 per ton. Ultimately, these nanosheets could be used to power houses, cars, and more. Technological innovations have brought us building materials manufactured with hemp. For example, hempcrete is a type of concrete made with hemp and lime. It’s carbon negative and stronger than traditional concrete but just one-seventh the weight. It’s also resistant to cracks, fire, mold, and termites and offers highly efficient insulation which can reduce energy costs by up to 70% annually. While hempcrete has been in use since the 1960s, it’s only just gaining popularity in the United States. Companies like Tiny Hemp Houses in Colorado are already gaining traction helping people build all-natural homes from hempcrete.
In addition to concrete alternatives, hemp is being used to make wood alternatives. Fibonacci, LLC’s HempWood is made with a patented technology and is 20% denser than oak. It takes just four to six months to grow and harvest a hemp crop compared to 60 years for an oak tree to mature, which makes HempWood a more ecologically- and economically-friendly option. Hemp is also being used to make insulation by companies like Sunstrand and wood finish and deck stain sealers by companies like Hemp Shield. Unlike many other types of wood finish and deck stain sealers, Hemp Shield does not include hazardous air pollutants or toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. Technology is also being used to process hemp into materials that can be used to make furniture. The patented Zeoform can be used for plastics as discussed in #3 above, and it can be used to make furniture like tables and chairs. Zeoform can be molded and coated in a variety of finishes making it an excellent replacement for wood. Even designers are getting involved in taking hemp technology to the next level. Furniture designer Werner Aisslinger partnered with BASF Acrodur (a division of BASF) to design and manufacture a hemp chair using BASF Acrodur’s ecotechnology. Did you know hemp needs 50% less water than cotton does in order to produce a yield 200-250% more than cotton? Hemp can be used not just to make fabric but to make bacteria-fighting fabric. Scientists in China developed a blend of hemp fibers in the 1990s with a high resistance to staph bacteria. Since staph infections are so common and can be deadly for some patients, this type of technological innovation is extremely important to the healthcare industry. Colorado’s EnviroTextiles manufactures a hemp-rayon fabric blend that research studies have found to be 98.5% staph resistant. It’s also resistant to UV and infrared wavelengths. For years, scientists have been researching ways to develop materials from hemp that can replace both the plastic and metal components of cars. They’ve discovered that hemp fibers, which have a higher strength to weight ratio than steel and are significantly less expensive, are the solution. Hemp-based materials are also biodegradable, and they typically weigh 30% less than materials currently used in car manufacturing. That means cars made with hemp-based materials will see a sizeable increase in fuel efficiency compared to cars made with plastics and metals. Considering that hemp fibers are less expensive to manufacture than metals and plastics, it’s not surprising that companies like Diamler/Chrysler, BMW, and Audi Volkswagen are already using hemp materials in their cars. However, it’s not just the big car companies that are using hemp. After entrepreneur Bruce Michael Dietzen built his own hemp car (like Henry Ford did in 1941), he started a company, Renew Sports Cars, which builds custom hemp bodied sports cars. Hemp technology can be found in a wide variety of household goods. Aside from foods and essential oils, consumers can also find hemp water filters, glasses, pens, and more.
In fact, a quick Google search reveals far more products than you probably thought could be made from hemp. Here are some of those hemp products: Sunscreen Cosmetics Beverages Towels Tablecloths Shoes Jackets Hats Wallets Belts Jewelry Shampoo Soap Candles Dog toys Animal feed Curtains Laundry detergent. The list goes on and on, and as more innovative technologies continue to disrupt the hemp industry, we can assume this list will keep getting longer. What’s Next for Innovative Technologies in the Hemp Industry? Since industrial hemp has been illegal for so long in the United States, companies haven’t been able to research and develop technologies that cultivators, manufacturers, and consumers need. In many instances, technology is simply not available. For example, law enforcement needs technology that can detect legal hemp and differentiate it from cannabis. Without adequate technology, not only are new process and product innovations limited, but prices to consumers remain higher than they could be.
Fibonacci’s efforts to make the price of HempWood comparable to oak by 2020 is a perfect example. Despite the delays and barriers, companies continue to push boundaries to develop new technologies that will drive the hemp industry forward. With goals to expand uses of hemp, develop new methods for hemp cultivation and processing, and launch new hemp products – and doing so faster, cheaper, and with higher quality – it’s certain we’ll see many innovative hemp technologies debut in the future. Due to its powerful healing properties, CBD oil has become immensely popular.