As the tipping point for climate change creeps up on us, we can’t help but ask: How much impact could utilising Hemp for Advanced Natural Materials have on our planet?
The last couple of years have been defining for the newly-empowered Hemp industry. From Hemp Foods & medicines to skincare and Hemp Biomaterials, innovation has been rife. Relaxed laws on Hemp in western nations finally made long-overdue R&D possible. With new research came new ideas, and so on & so forth.
Now, we have a much clearer picture of more advanced applications for Hemp.
In this blog, we’re going to explore the concept of Advanced Natural Materials (specifically Hemp-based), their benefits, and some examples of materials that can be made from Hemp
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What Are Advanced Natural Materials?
The concept of natural materials is best explained by interpreting it literally – they’re materials made from natural products. In their simplest raw form, you’re looking at fabrics, oils, and medicine. However, advanced materials tend to require a lot of resources that require unsustainable precursors. Advanced natural materials are plant-based, and require fewer steps in processing from point A to Z. This makes them much more sustainable. Additionally, there isn’t any loss in performance – if anything, they seem to perform better.
What Parts Of Hemp Can Be Used To Make Them?
When it comes to Hemp, virtually every part of the plant can be utilised for one commodity or another. Whether it’s a traditional material or something more advanced, nothing needs to be wasted. Unfortunately, countries such as Australia require us to throw away useful and profitable parts of the plant. But we still use what we can!
In terms of advanced materials, the greatest opportunities at our fingertips lay within the stalks of the plant. Through processing, the bast fibre can be stripped from the wooden core of the plant (also known as Hurd). Once separated, both of the components can be utilised in a range of products that we’d class as advanced materials – And it’s totally natural.
Are All Advanced Natural Materials Biodegradable?
The definition of biodegradable inherently requires the end-of-cycle product to be consumable by the earth without causing pollution. In this regard, we’ll go ahead and burst the bubble by saying products such as Hemp Plastic Bottles and Hemp Batteries can’t be carelessly discarded. Even though they’re made from a natural material, they’re still not good to discard in the environment.
So, what are the benefits then? Read on and we’ll explain!
Benefits of Advanced Natural Materials
Alternative to mining
Advanced Natural Materials are a plant-based resource for products often sourced through mining and taking the resources from earth. Rather than taking non-renewable resources from our planet, we can simply grow substitutes that can be turned into the same final materials.
Plastic is a great example due to the reliance on the cellulose from oil in production. Cellulose can also be derived from Hemp, then put through the same process. In this case, we’ll be able to reduce earth’s oil consumption when it comes to making plastics. Another example is graphene, which we’ll touch on later in the article.
Less pollution during product manufacturing All of the plant matter from the crop is used, and the materials can be made through mechanical processing methods. This means a reduction in toxic chemicals and emissions produced through manufacturing.
Products are more eco-friendly It’s hard to say that any product is totally biodegradable. Only a very few products can harmlessly break down in the environment. However, products made from natural components release less toxic chemicals when decomposing in the elements. They also require less non-renewable resources in manufacturing. Once again, it’s important to note that materials like Bioplastic still turn into microplastics that can harm animals. Still, more research is required on the impact that discarded Hemp plastic has on soil.
Examples of Hemp-Based Advanced Natural Materials
Hemp Concrete/Hempcrete Our favourite advanced material that can be made from Hemp is Hempcrete, which we actively work with. The simple mixture of Hemp Hurd, Lime, and Water offers one of the sturdiest (and oldest) home building materials known to man. One of our favourite examples is a Hemp House in Japan built on the beach around 300 years ago that is still standing to this day. They’ve only had to touch up the paint!
This particular style of Hempcrete is an Advanced Natural Material that is totally biodegradable and can ‘become one’ with the earth once we’re done with it.
Hemp Bioplastic Hemp Bioplastic is a material that can be made with cellulose derived from Hemp Biomass. Hemp Biomass is simply powdered stalks, and incorporates both Hemp Hurd and Bast Fibre. The cellulose content from the plant can be extracted and used in the manufacturing of plastics. There is a good chance that a scaled Hemp industry could result in Hemp plastics becoming a norm in society. But despite the benefits of it’s natural base, it will still create microplastics. We will have to modify our relationship with plastics in order to truly utilise the benefits of this alternative.
Hemp-Based Graphene Substitute Graphene is a material used in… well, whatever you’re reading this article on. Phones, computers, televisions. Just about anything with a chipset utilises graphene as a supercapacitor. We won’t get into the science of it… But one of the greatest discoveries in the modern Hemp industry is the ability to turn Hemp bast fibre into a supercapacitor that compares with Graphene. This can be used in technology such as microchips & even energy storage devices like batteries.
Hemp Wood It might sound simple, but Hemp Wood took time! Hempcrete has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. On the other hand, Hemp Wood required much more R&D before it was commercially viable. We’ll let the team at fibonacci explain the process, but the combined utility of Hempcrete & Hemp Wood could truly revolutionise the building & construction industry.
Hemp Insulation Alongside Hempcrete and Hemp Wood, certain companies have started scaled production of Hemp insulation. This is made from the Bast Fibre of a Hemp plant, which has remarkable natural insulative properties. From clothing to houses, Hemp fibre has a unique capability to keep you warmer in the winter, and cooler in the summer. So, who wants a full Hemp House?
Hemp Carbon Materials After researchers discovered the potential of Hemp graphene, theories about possibilities for other Hemp-derived carbon materials began to spurt up. There are people actively working on Hemp-based filtration systems and so much more! It’s clear to us that we’re only just cracking the surface of what Hemp has to offer us – and the best part? It’s all going to be naturally derived.
As you can probably see, the Advanced Material sector of the Hemp industry has remarkable potential. Researchers are just getting started. Looking at the history of how Hemp has been used has taken us a long way, but now it’s time for modern science to step up and demonstrate what Hemp can really do. Thinking about the endless possibilities is nothing less than exciting, and you can bet we’ll be sticking around to participate!
What sort of products and industries could you see Hemp being brought into? Let us know in the comments section!
Margaret River Hemp Co honours the traditional owners of this land, the Wadandi (Saltwater)people, and their elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the Wadandi people’s 60,000 year custodianship of this special place, and we thank them for generously sharing with us their immensely deep culture knowledge and connection to the land.