Hemp Biomass… What Is Being Done With It?

Written by Derek Johnson

In the cannabis industry, the term hemp biomass is often used to describe all parts of the plants, including the flowers and the seeds. However, the true meaning of the word biomass is organic matter that is most often used for the production of non-consumable products. Put another way, hemp biomass consists of the plant material that is left after the flowers and seeds have been removed.

Currently, hemp is most valued as a source of cannabinoids, food, and fiber. As a fuel source, however, it is under exploited. This will absolutely change, given the fact that hemp is super rich in cellulose, which is one of the most ideal and abundant bioresources available for the production of fuel.

Although under exploited, fantastic efforts are underway to tap into hemp biomass for the production of fuel. For example, pyrolysis (the application of intense heat to organic plant material) is used to transform hemp into a substance that resembles charcoal, which, in turn, can be used to generate energy.

Hemp biomass can also be converted into auto fuel through the process of fermentation. The result is a product that is much cheaper to produce than diesel, renewable, unlike petroleum, and much more environmentally friendly.

Hemp biomass is also gaining ground in the heating industry, particularly in the form of pellets. Pellet stoves using wood, grasses, or straw are popular ways to heat homes. However, they do have problems, such as ash creation (up to 10%) and the formation of clinkers, which are clumps of ash that can damage heating units. With hemp pellets, the ash content is reduced to below 2%, which eliminates the problem of clinkers.

Beyond use as charcoal, auto fuel, and pellets, there’s also the potential for hemp biomass to be used in batteries. University of Alberta researchers have been experimenting with hemp biomass as a nanomaterial to be used in supercapacitors, which are used in the braking systems of trains, buses, and elevators.

Thanks to hemp’s high cellulose content and how easy it is to grow compared to other crops used to produce biomass, the future looks bright for the crop in the energy market. And because it’s renewable, the future of the earth is also bright.

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Derek Johnson

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