Industrial Hemp May Power Super Batteries

Industrial hemp doesn’t get you high, but could help make super batteries according to researchers. It’s non-psychoactive, devoid of the phytochemical delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but instead of lighting up, it could be lighting up our world.

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Graphene, the substance currently earmarked for the task, is far more expensive than industrial hemp. At the annual American Chemical Society’s meeting held in San Francisco, interest in industrial hemp in this capacity was piqued. In fact, industrial hemp was one of the prominent issues discussed at the meeting. An engineering professor at Clarkson University, David Mitlin, and his team heated up hemp fibers and created carbon nano-sheets out of them which could be used in super-capacitors as electrodes. Mitlin told NBC News that compared with grapheme, the carbon he got from hemp was “a little bit better, but it’s 1,000 times cheaper.”

Known as the super battery of the future, “supercaps” are thought to be the next generation of batteries. Mitlin has started his own company, Alta Supercaps, where he plans to market his high temperature energy storage devices for gas and oil exploration. He said, “We’re looking for partners.” Tn the current political climate this is challenging, though, as industrial hemp is highly regulated. It’s only allowed to be grown for research purposes and access to it is very limited.

Batteries over time are thought to be able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. One of the reasons electric cars are so expensive today is because the battery technology they use is so expensive. But this breakthrough can bring the price down and perhaps make electric vehicles and other sources of energy more viable. Stanford University President John LeRoy Hennessy, recently on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show, said high capacity batteries may be the next disruptive technology that changes the paradigm for everyone. Universities and labs all over the globe are racing to find the next generation of capacitors. Energy storage is a huge niche and more people are studying it today than at any time. A lithium air battery is thought to be the holy grail, a product which in theory could run merely on lithium and oxygen alone, and still be as energy dense as gasoline. But no one has yet make one work.

Most researchers and those in the know believe that a breakthrough in super-capacitor technology is still decades away. Recently the farm bill passed through the Senate allowing universities access to hemp research as long as states legalize its cultivation. Some speculate Washington could be the next place where the industrial hemp industry will take root.

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