Magic things happen when you get down to the nanoscale. Suspensions of gold or silver particles change colors; calcium carbonate molecules can be arranged to either produce beautiful opalescent abalone or dusty chalk. The way things are put together is the difference between coal and diamonds, so what has scientists so excited about hemp nanotechnology?
Currently, nano-cellulose is made primarily with wood fiber, but only part of the wood is usable in this process. In addition to being a sustainable resource that takes far less time to mature than trees, hemp stalk contains a whopping 77% cellulose! Those factors combined with the ease of extracting the material from Mother Nature’s wonder plant mean that hemp-based nano-cellulose can be produced for 1/1000th the cost of standard graphene nano-sheets.
What can Nano-Cellulose do?
A more fitting question is what can’t it do. Lighter than steel, but with all the strength and more, Ford motors estimates that using nano-cellulose to replace common components could shave 340kg off the weight of its cars. Talk about fuel efficiency! But the process of making nano-cellulose involves the use of algae.
That algae can also be modified to produce biofuel at the same time, which burns cleaner and gives better fuel economy while mass production would make the fuel far cheaper than petroleum. Cheaper fuel and better mileage! That’s a win-win.
Because it is so light and strong, nano-cellulose is super absorbent. Imagine it taking 10,000 times its weight! That means advances in everything from paper towels and bandages to feminine products and industrial cleanup applications. Babies will love it too.
Behold the power
Take out the stiffness from batteries, and you get lighter, more efficient, and more flexible power sources or today’s (and tomorrow’s) electronic devices. From electric cars with longer drive time to flexible phones, better power is on its way. More efficient energy production and absorption for solar panels could power homes (and grow houses) with fewer panels, meaning cheaper conversion from grid power.
Price and efficiency are the only factors standing in the way of a massive exodus of customers from the current power system. On the micro scale, tiny electrical devices that could contain their own power source could revolutionize not only our culture but our bodies. Contact lenses that allow for night vision are being developed as we speak. Organic-electronic interface for prosthetic devices could soon become a reality.
The structure of nano-cellulose means the creation of compact, high volume filtration systems. Emergency kits could include tiny filters for making salt water drinkable, and hospitals could use them for filtering blood during transfusions. The speed at which the blood is cleaned could even make a case for quick lube, Kieth Richards-style body cleanses for health or overdose cases.
Everyone is going geek-ga-ga over the latest flexible phones, even though the prices are tear-inducing. Nano-cellulose is clear, which means super flexible screen far beyond even the latest incarnations could soon be here, and for much cheaper, if sourced from hemp. Think of a shirt that could display images like a screen!
Because its strength-to-weight ratio is 8 times that of steel, it is guaranteed to make its way into military and police applications. Lighter and cheaper body armor, weapons, armored vehicles, and mobility equipment mean a break on taxpayer funds and safer personnel at home and abroad. Heck, Batman would be the first one to be on board.
Currently, hemp production in the United States is illegal because hemp and marijuana are both classified as drugs in Schedule I, even though hemp is not psychoactive. Estimates put the current hemp industry as over half a billion dollars, all of which must be imported. Legalization could put this industry on our soil, and with these advances, that industry could increase exponentially.
Do you think hemp production should be legalized again in the United States? How many different products do you use that could be made out of hemp? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments section below.
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