For farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs and investors, hemp is an idea whose time has come again. Here’s a look at areas where it will emerge strong:
Plastics: Most plastics are made of polyesters distilled from petroleum and natural gas. Scientists have found that furfural, derived from plant waste such as hemp stalks, works just as well. In a decade or two, everything from your computer cover to your child’s Legos might be made from hemp.
Health: Hemp’s chemical compounds have shown an ability to reduce inflammation in the body, ease skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, and strengthen nerves damaged by strokes, Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. Hemp oil is drawing notice as an ingredient in soaps and shampoos, thanks to its concentration of essential fatty acids that make soaps and lotions smoother and less drying. The oil’s wealth of amino acids and vitamins also makes it a popular additive to skin creams.
Batteries: Research indicates that hemp fibers conduct electricity better than graphene, which is a carbon lattice touted as a promising battery material. Hemp may be even better at a fraction of the cost.
Construction: Hempcrete, a mix of the inner part of the hemp stalk and a lime-based binder, is being used to build solid walls that make soundproof, well-insulated houses. Hempcrete walls have been shown to absorb carbon dioxide over time, improving indoor air quality while making walls denser and stronger.