Hemp: a raw material for reduced cost and respectful of the environment
Natural fibers have long been used successfully and in insulation and construction materials but also serve to reinforce composite materials for aerospace and automotive. Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim (ATB) and the Technical University (TU) of Dresden want to develop and patent hemp processing methods with high energy efficiency and low cost. The March 26 2007, a pilot plant was commissioned at Potsdam.
With this new facility, the goal is to show that it is possible to halve the cost of processing agricultural hemp compared to conventional methods. For this, it is not the whole plant is air dried after cutting but it is crushed at harvest time, and then stored in silos to then be converted into various by-products.
Hemp can complete until the third, other fibrous materials (wood, straw, etc.). And adding 1100 tons of hemp (150 hectare of cultivation) 5000 tons other natural fibers, there is obtained an insulation 170.000 square meters, thick 10cm. Another advantage: the entire plant can be used, there is no waste. On the other hand, the manufacture of insulation from natural fibers is much less energy than other insulating materials. Moreover the finished product being lighter, transportation require less fuel. Finally, this technology opens the door to a new source of income for agriculture, production and processing of hemp can be done both in a decentralized manner in rural areas.
This pilot plant was financed up to 1 million by the EU. The German government and the state of Brandenburg also participated with an investment of 172.000 euros each.
Source: BE Germany
Hemp bites on the plastics market
Hemp, traditionally used in papermaking or animal litter, is increasingly meeting in the building or plastics. It gradually takes the place of traditional plastic with a structure established by the Chanvrière of Dawn, the leading European producer.
Fiber, Research, Development (FRD), created in the early 2008 the technology of Troyes, is a research company dedicated to the promotion of agro-materials plant fibers (hemp, flax, wood ...).
It wants scientific intermediary between hemp producers and the industry.
In recent years, the construction industry recognizes the virtues of the plant: first, fiber transformed into hemp wool seduced by its thermal and sound insulation capacity; secondly, the boon, mixed with lime produces lightweight concrete also highly insulating and carbon balance more favorable than traditional concrete.
But it is in the plastics industry that the future for hemp is woven. Injection of fibers in thermoplastic and thermosetting materials to replace glass fiber grows more and more, particularly in the automotive industry. Almost 30% of plant fibers in cooling propellers, rear windows, expansion tank caps or battery holders make for equivalent performance, lighter, thus more energy efficient and more easily recyclable.
According to Savourat, President of FRD and Chanvrière Aube, many other applications including aerospace, connectors or sports materials are expected.