Hemp is a wonder crop. It’s an incredibly versatile plant that can be used for a huge range of purposes.
Used in the sustainable manufacture of clothing, food, and paper, as well as having huge industrial purposes, new research is now suggesting that hemp batteries are even more powerful than lithium and graphene.
On his popular YouTube channel, Robert Murray Smith discussed the experiment.
Smith began by observing a Volts by Amps curve of both the hemp and lithium batteries. To his initial surprise, the power underneath the hemp cell was a value of 31 while that of the lithium cell had a value of just 4.
Smith modestly claims that he really hasn’t done anything remarkable. He states that the results of the experiment simply show the performance of the hemp cell is “significantly better” than its lithium counterpart.
Take a look at his video below:
While this might be the first time you’re hearing of hemp’s ability to act as a great power source, the discovery isn’t new.
In 2014, researchers in the US found that waste fibers (also known as ‘shiv’) from the hemp plant can be transformed into “ultrafast” super capacitors that are “better than graphene.”
If you’re unfamiliar with graphene, it is a unique, man-made carbon material that is bulletproof as well as being lighter than foil. There’s obviously a lot of expensive technology that goes into graphene’s production, with cost being the main draw back. Fortunately, hemp costs one-thousandth of the price in manufacture.
In the 2014 experiment, the team, led by Dr David Mitlin of Clarkson University, New York, ‘cooked’ leftover bark fibers of the plant (they normally end up in land fill or compost dumps) into carbon nanosheets. The total process is known as hydrothermal synthesis.
The team then recycled the fibers into supercapacitors – or energy storage devices. Supercapacitors have revolutionized the way electronics are powered. Conventional batteries store a reservoir of energy and slowly feed through the power whereas Supercapacitors rapidly discharge their entire energy load. They are normally required in machines that require short, sharp bursts of power.
Dr. Mitlin said:
“People ask me: why hemp? I say, why not? We’re making graphene-like materials for a thousandth of the price – and we’re doing it with waste.”
“…you can do really interesting things with bio-waste. With banana peels, for instance, you can turn them into a dense block of carbon – we call it pseudo-graphite – and that’s great for sodium-ion batteries. But if you look at hemp fibre its structure is the opposite – it makes sheets with high surface area – and that’s very conducive to supercapacitors.”
Mitlin concludes that the resulting supercapacitors operate at a broad range of temperatures and a high energy density.
The peer-reviewed journal paper ranks the device “on par with or better than commercial graphene-based devices.”
“They work down to 0C and display some of the best power-energy combinations reported in the literature for any carbon. For example, at a very high power density of 20 kW/kg (kilowatt per kilo) and temperatures of 20, 60, and 100C, the energy densities are 19, 34, and 40 Wh/kg (watt-hours per kilo) respectively.”
When the machine is fully assembled, the energy density is 12 Wh/kg, which can be achieved at a charge time less than six seconds.
Texas-based electric motorcycle company Alternet announced in 2018 that it would be teaming up with Mitlin to power motorbikes for its ReVolt Electric Motorbikes subsidiary.
Findings like these are clearly showing that hemp is a truly valuable resource. As the world wakes up and more nations start to decriminalize the plant, maybe more companies will follow suit and help transform our planet to live on sustainable energy.