The versatility of hemp cannot be understated, as it can be used in the creation of such a wide variety of materials. These include paper, clothing, housing, fuel, and food. Henry Ford even utilized hemp-plastic and hemp fuel to power his first automobiles. So it should come as no surprise that researchers have also demonstrated how hemp fiber can be used to create batteries.
Household batteries work by saving a stored charge within their fibers. This gives them the ability to parcel out energy over time. However, it takes a long time for them to charge up.
By contrast, supercapacitors can dole out electricity immediately, but in much smaller increments. This is why electric cars use supercapacitors, because it enables their ability to come to fast stops and starts.
Most supercapacitors use a substance called graphene to store electricity. It is a type of carbon that is well suited for electrical conductivity because it is incredibly strong, yet extremely light. Graphene is used in lithium-ion batteries, which can be found in cell phones as well as many other rechargeable devices. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive, which in turn has led to the exploration of cheaper alternatives.
In 2004, a group of scientists decided to study the use of leftover hemp fibers to create supercapacitors. It was discovered that by studying the Volts by Amps curve, the hemp cell had a value of 31 while the lithium cell had a value of 4. This means that hemp is much better at storing electricity than graphene. The best part is that the hemp fiber that was used is typically considered waste and thrown, so it is incredibly less expensive and easier to source than graphene.
So why aren’t we using hemp fiber to create batteries? The hemp fiber experiments were done on a small scale, so they still require further peer-reviewed studies in order to back up the evidence.
Unforuntely, hemp also has a long history of discrimination. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but it is a natural material that is easy to produce. This puts it in direct competition with many different industries.
In the last century, these various industries were eventually successful in their campaign to completely prohibit the cultivation of hemp in the United States. This injustice has only recently been rectified with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which repealed many of the federal restrictions against growing industrial hemp.
It is hopeful that the next decade will mark an exponential growth in hemp derived product as we rediscover the amazing versatility of its properties.