Photo courtesy of Arch Daily

News | 01.28.2022

Could Hemp Rebar Replace Steel? Researchers Say Yes

Currently adding rebar to the long list of hemp uses.

In Troy, New York, a private research university called Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute made some pretty significant findings regarding how hemp could be used as rebar in concrete rather than steel. 

Because concrete lacks the interior strength to remain standing on its own, construction workers often use what’s called rebar support, a sturdy rod traditionally made from steel. For various reasons, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute released a statement noting how they’ve created a hemp-based rebar reinforcing technology suitable to frame concrete buildings. 

Photo courtesy of Treehugger

Working in close quarters are Alexandros Tsamis, assistant professor of architecture and associate director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, and Dan Walczyk, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Manufacturing Innovation Center. According to Hemp Today, the two professors said “the hemp-based natural fiber-reinforced thermoplastic rebar” is ideal for replacing steel in concrete buildings because of the crop’s long-lasting and non-corrosive properties.

Touching on the preliminary studies they’ve conducted, the team found that not only is hemp just as sturdy and strong as steel, but minimizing the use of steel could seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently created the Institute for Energy, Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS) to bridge the gap between design, engineering, and business.

Photo courtesy of Structural Solutions

Now, the EBESS is handling the research of the recent hemp vs. steel findings while assembling a thorough plan to create an economically viable hemp industry that could mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from steel production. 

For now, the team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is looking for ways to take advantage of cost-effective hemp processing technologies like separating hemp fibers from the stem’s sturdy body without hindering it in any way. As Hemp Today notes, these processes are a “sustainable degumming method” and a new “hemp bio-composite processing method.”

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