Uses for hemp

Hemp is an incredibly useful substance. From textiles to soap, hemp and its derivatives can be used as substitutes for various household products.  Yet, beyond everyday items, there are myriad uses for hemp that one can barely imagine. Here are three particularly remarkable uses for hemp:

Building Materials
It is well known that hemp can be used to make things like fabrics and bioplastics, but few are aware that hemp can also be used as for building materials. Hempcrete, for example, is a hemp-based building material that can be constituted by mixing hemp’s wood-like center (called the shiv) with a lime-based binder.

When fully cured, hempcrete weighs about 1/8 as much as concrete, and has a compressive strength of one megapascal pressure unit (MPa), which is about 1/20 the strength of concrete. Though it lacks the ability to fully support roof loads, hempcrete can be used to strengthen structural supports. One study found that hempcrete can help increase the compressive loading strength of a stud wall by a factor of  3x to 4x. Hempcrete is also mold-resistant, carbon-negative, and an excellent insulator.

Tattoo Ink
Once seen as a mark of rebellion, tattoos have grown common popularity over the last two decades. Approximately four out of 10 Americans have at least one tattoo: With more tattooed people than ever before, some are starting to raise concerns about the potential health effects. A study by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility found that toxic elements in tattoo ink can seep into one’s lymph nodes, which may have some serious side effects. Tattoo enthusiasts have an alternative in hemp tattoo ink.

A growing number of companies have started selling tattoo ink made with hemp oil, such as Papillon Tattoo Supply or S8 Tattoo. In addition to being free of toxic materials, hemp-derived tattoo ink is thought to help one’s tattoo heal faster than traditional forms of ink. While there is little scientific research to support the claim, health-conscious tattoo enthusiasts have been turning to the novel hemp product.

Supercapacitors
Beyond improving our health and homes, hemp has the potential to improve electronics as well. According to research presented a meeting of the American Chemical Society, hemp may be the ideal material for making supercapacitors. In essence, a supercapacitor is a type of rechargeable battery. While most batteries will take an hour or more to charge, supercapacitors are capable of charging and discharging within a matter of seconds. The downside to supercapacitors is that they lack the storage capacity of most rechargeable batteries, due primarily to its energy density.

A team of scientists at the University of Alberta, led by David Mitlin, Ph.D., discovered that hemp could be used in the creation of supercapacitors. After assembling their hemp-derived device, Mitlin and his team found that it outperformed commercial supercapacitors in both energy density and the range of temperatures in which it could operate. At present, no known company makes hemp-derived supercapacitors, but the possibility begs the market.

With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, expect a veritable cornucopia of hemp-derived products coming down the pipeline.

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