Hemp and hemp seeds may soon transform the world’s economies for the better, as scientists learn about hemp’s ability to improve energy storage. Are hemp batteries about to change the world?
According to Phys.org, fibres from hemp may have just as much energy storage capacity as graphene, an atom-thick material that can be made into electrodes. Graphene has been the favourite choice for use in supercapacitors.
Supercapacitors have the ability to charge up in a matter of seconds, unlike traditional rechargeable batteries that can take hours. They also have a large capacity for energy storage than traditional batteries.
As Themindunleashed.org points out, the downside is that graphene is expensive to produce. So scientists are investigating how to replicate the properties graphene has, using hemp.
Mitlin’s group decided to see if they could make graphene-like carbons from hemp bast fibres. The fibres come from the inner bark of the plant and often are discarded from Canada’s fast-growing industries that use hemp for clothing, construction materials and other products. The U.S. could soon become another supplier of bast. It now allows limited cultivation of hemp, which unlike its close cousin, does not induce highs.
By heating the hemp fibres for 24 hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists were able to produce carbon nanosheets, which was then used to build supercapacitors.
Fully assembled, the devices performed far better than commercial supercapacitors in both energy density and the range of temperatures over which they can work. The hemp-based devices yielded energy densities as high as 12 Watt-hours per kilogram, two to three times higher than commercial counterparts. They also operate over an impressive temperature range, from freezing to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mitlin, who conducted the research while at the University of Alberta, acknowledges funding from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, National Institute for Nanotechnology (Canada) and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.
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