Hemp is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile plants on the planet. You might know that hemp is used to make clothing, edibles and biodegradable plastics, but did you know that you can also use hemp to build a house? Let’s take a look at 5 surprising things you can make out of hemp.
1. Building materials
Hemp concrete, which is also known as hempcrete, is a composite building material made out of a binder, like cement or building limes, and hemp shives, the woody core of industrial hemp. Now, Europeans have only started using hempcrete in the last 15 years or so, when people started looking for environmentally-friendly construction materials. But Indians have been using hempcrete for at least 1,500 years.
Hemp concrete has many advantages as a building material:
- Environmentally friendly — If you source your hemp and limestone locally, your construction can leave a carbon-negative footprint.
- Good thermal insulation — The hemp concrete traps the air when it’s poured. Air is a great insulator.
- Lightweight — Hempcrete is at least 50 percent lighter than regular concrete.
- Durable — The ancient buildings in Ellora, India, have been constructed thousands of years ago and they’re still standing.
- Gets stronger over time — The lime mineralises the cellulose in the hemp shives, so the hempcrete will eventually have the same consistency as a rock.
- Saves money — Hempcrete is energy efficient, so it reduces the need for mechanical heating and cooling. Hemp concrete is also non-combustible, so using it can reduce your insurance costs.
However, one of the biggest drawbacks of hempcrete is that it cannot bear structural loads. Hemp concrete walls can only support a load of about 15 kg/m2, so you can only build with hempcrete if you use a frame made out of other materials, such as wood or steel.
Moreover, hempcrete is not the only construction material made out of hemp. You can also find hemp fibre insulation that could replace fibreglass wall insulation and hemp oil wood finish that can repair worn wood finishes.
2. Fuel made from hemp
Can you drive your car using fuel made out of cannabis? Well, you can — if you drive a diesel model. Hemp biodiesel is produced by extracting and refining the oils and fats out of hemp seeds. Hemp seeds have an oil content of about 30 to 35 percent of the seeds’ weight, which means you could produce up to 783 litres of biofuel per hectare of hemp.
One of the great things about making biodiesel out of hemp seeds is that you can also use the rest of the plant to produce ethanol, which is another biofuel. Ethanol is currently used as an additive to gasoline, and it’s usually made out of corn or barley. Replacing food crops with hemp for ethanol production could increase efficiency in the food industry.
3. Hemp batteries
Could your smartphone be powered by hemp in the future? Well, it certainly seems so. Recent research shows that hemp shives could be recycled into supercapacitors — energy storage devices more powerful than the ones relying on lithium or graphene.
You might be wondering what a supercapacitor is. Well, it’s an energy storage device that changed the way electronics are powered.
A conventional battery stores large amounts of energy and feeds it into the system drip by drip. A supercapacitor stores large amounts of energy, but it can discharge its entire load quickly when needed. Thus, supercapacitors are great for electronics that require sharp bursts of energy. Supercapacitors are used for regenerative braking in electric cars, but they also deliver power to defibrillators, rechargeable LED flashlights, street lights, laptops or digital cameras.
4. Car Parts made with hemp
You might be wondering why someone would go through all the trouble of using hemp to make car parts. Well, hemp is strong and durable, it is not brittle, is biodegradable, carbon-negative and it’s lighter than steel or fibreglass.
As the world-leading car manufacturers focused on releasing environmentally-friendly car models, finding a lightweight material strong enough for the automobile industry was necessary, and it seems like hemp plastic was the perfect solution.
BMW used hemp biocomposites for its i3 electric car model years ago, but nowadays companies like Audi, Mercedes and Ford use hemp to keep their models lightweight and to lower their carbon footprint.
According to a recent study, Europe is set to become the world’s largest consumer of natural cosmetics. European customers are becoming more sophisticated, and they’re actively seeking products made out of plant-based ingredients.
Hemp is rich in minerals, vitamins and has a high content of essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 and omega 6. This is why a lot of natural cosmetics brands now use hemp in their products.
One of the most popular hemp cosmetics is hemp shampoo. Thanks to its high vitamin E content, hemp shampoo prevents split ends and keeps your hair colour more vibrant. The shampoo is rich in zinc, which helps strengthen the hair follicles. And, last but not least, the hemp shampoo moisturises and nourishes your scalp, which can prevent or treat dandruff.
You can also find hemp in other cosmetics, such as soaps, balms, creams, makeup, nail polish and more.
The versatility of hemp
Europeans have used cannabis for millennia, and it seems they will continue to use it in the years to come. Cannabis is making a comeback, and not only as a medicinal tool or as a recreational drug.
As European consumers look for natural solutions to their modern problems, hemp’s versatility makes it the surprisingly perfect answer to a large number of questions. Europe is expected to lead the global cannabis market by 2024, and, given how many uses scientists found for hemp, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.