MAJOR USES OF INDUSTRIAL HEMP:
The three primary components of industrial hemp, seeds, fiber, and hurds, and have a multitude of beneficial industrial uses (historical, current, and potential), including:
SEEDS – the seeds are a highly nutritious food for both humans and animals, and yield hempseed oil for nutrition, soaps, cosmetics, paints, varnishes, etc.
Hemp oil is mostly valued for its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). At 80%, the hempseed oil contains the highest concentration of total PUFAs in the plant kingdom, the majority of which are the two essential fatty acids (EFA) linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Its balanced EFA ratio, which closely matches human nutritional requirements, makes hemp oil a suitable ingredient in a variety of food, supplement and personal care products. Added to the value of hemp oil is the presence of a rare fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is used to treat ailments such as neurodermatitis, arthritis and premenstrual syndrome.
Like flax seed oil (also called linseed oil) or cottonseed oil, hempseed oil can be processed into a number of valuable products such as biodiesel, soaps, cosmetics, paints varnishes, etc.
FIBER – the durable natural fiber from the stalks can be used for textiles, clothing, canvas, rope, cordage, for archival grade paper, & composite fibers replacing heavier toxic fibers (e.g. fiberglass), and building materials made with recycled plastic and fiber.
· Textiles, Rope & Cordage:
The strength, absorbency and comfort of hemp fiber is unmatched by any other natural fiber. Historically, hemp rope and canvas was extensively used on large sailing ships due to its strength, resistance to salt water rot and UV resistance. The original “Levis” brand jeans earned their reputation for strength and durability while made of hemp canvas.
Nowadays hemp textiles are increasingly viewed as an environmentally sound alternative to cotton and dominate the alternative natural fiber market in clothing and fashion wear. Due to its porosity and absorbency, hemp fabrics take dyeing very well, and are compatible with natural mineral and plant based dyes. Currently, everything from diapers to bed-sheets are available made of hemp and hemp blend fabrics. Major manufacturers such as Nike, Two-Star Dog, Indigenous Designs, Artisan Gear and others enjoy success with their various hemp textile products.
· Composite Fibers:
Natural fiber composites are now emerging as a realistic alternative to wood-filled and glass-reinforced composites, especially in automobiles. The can deliver the same performance at lower weights, or be 25-30% stronger at the same weight. Moreover, they exhibit a favorable non-brittle fracture on impact, another important requirement in the passenger compartment.
The aerospace and aviation industries are also attracted to natural fibers due to the reduced toxicity of synthetic substances when they burn. It has been claimed that many people have died in what would have been survivable crashes, except for the fumes inhaled from toxic substances burning.
HURDS – from the woody core of the stalks, and the bulk of that stalk, can be used for paper, animal bedding, oil absorbent, soil amendment, chemicals, plastics, & fuels (ethanol, methane, co-firing with coal), etc.
During the processing of hemp, a large quantity of waste material is produced. It was recognized rather early that this material could be used as a feedstock for papermaking. In 1916 the USDA published a report entitled “Hemp Hurds as a Papermaking Material” in which the authors used chemical pulping methods to reduce the material to fibers. After subsequent bleaching, the material was formed into paper. The resulting paper was judged to be of a sufficient quality to meet the specifications of the US Government Printing Office. In fact, the strength and fold endurance exceeded a typical wood-based material produced at that time. The fiber yield from the hurds ranged between 35 and 44%, which, when corrected for the weight of dirt, corresponds to 38 to 47% yield. A chemical analysis of the hurds suggests they are 55% cellulose and 25% lignin, similar to many hardwoods. With modern process optimization, it is likely that the fiber yield would be nearly 50%.
The value of the bast fibers as a component in paper pulp is widely acknowledged. An analysis of the bast fibers shows that they are composed of 70% cellulose and 8% lignin. Given that this material is chemically quite different than the hurds, it likely would have to be processed separately, but would likely have a 70% yield to fiber. If one does a weighted average of 50% yield for the hurds and 70% for the bast fibers, one obtains a value of 55% fiber yield from retted hemp stalks.
Hemp hurds also serve as a renewable source of raw material for the production of plastics, and are much cleaner and more environmentally attractive than petroleum.
Use of the hemp hurds as a biomass for fuel production is attractive for a number of reasons:
Biomass-produced fuels, animal feeds and industrial chemicals are economically competitive, for example: (1.) A mixed alcohol fuel would sell for 70 cents a gallon today compared to 80-90 cents a gallon for MTBE and $1.10 to $1.20 for ethanol. (2.) Biomass-derived ketones such as acetone can sell for 65 cents a gallon rather than the current market price of $2 a gallon for ketones from conventional petrochemical technology. (3.) Carboxylic acids from biomass technology can sell for 10 cents a pound compared to 20 cents a pound for the conventionally produced version.
Unlike ethanol mixtures, mixed alcohol fuels ship compatibly with gasoline in pipelines.
Chemicals produced from biomass are all oxygenates, which are difficult to produce from oxygen-free petroleum. Introducing oxygen into petroleum increases risk of explosion, compared to the inherent safety of biomass oxygenates.
Mixed alcohol fuels can be added directly to motor fuel. They’re an alternative oxygenate for making clean-burning fuels and especially attractive in light of the recent California ban on methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE ) that has contaminated ground- and drinking water.
Biomass-derived fuels do not contribute to global warming because the carbon dioxide cycles, the CO2 released to the atmosphere during biomass combustion, is offset by the CO2 taken from the atmosphere (through photosynthesis) by the plants used to create the biomass.
NOTE: Above is only a brief summary of the beneficial uses and attributes of industrial hemp. More data is readily available by typing “industrial hemp” into any Internet search engine, and following the links to a multitude of sites. We particularly recommend these:
North American Industrial Hemp Council www.naihc.org
Hemp Industries Association www.thehia.org
Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association www.hempgrowers.com
HEMPTECH The Industrial Hemp Information Network www.hemptech.com