The revolution will not be televised. During the past few years many new innovations have been developed in the cannabis industry. I'm not talking about new strains or concentrates or bongs here. I'm talking about some industrial applications that have far reaching implications. A couple of these cross the gaps between standard industrial applications of technology and old fashioned agriculture. These innovations show a bridge between organic plant agriculture and chemical / industrial technology in several fields. As presented in Cannabis Phytoremediation, carbon based technologies have the potential to not only mitigate climate change but transform and revolutionize various industrial sectors. Capturing carbon from the atmosphere is one thing. Using it for cool stuff is another. Gives brand new meaning to high technology.
Once upon a time, way back in 1938 Popular Science published an article: New Billion Dollar Crop. Sound familiar to anyone? The earlier year, 1937, the "marijuana" stamp act had been passed… effectively taxing the billion crop out of sight and out of mind. This is a chart from that era: Industrial Uses of Hemp (Cannabis Sativa, L.) Since then, a few more facts have come to light.
The modern chart is a bit more complex with the advances in chemical & materials sciences during the past seventy eight years. You can see what I mean. Consider for a moment all the inter-locking interests chemical and petrochemical represented here. Cannabis has the potential to impact of all of these industries and every player in the game.
Beyond all of this, are fields of science & technology that are game changers.
First is the new materials science being developed called "graphene". Comes from the mineral graphite as one source. You know, pencil lead. Rather new field of study: it is a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together in the classic carbon ring. Produced in sheets of material, it is flexible, semi-transparent yet 200 times stronger than steel. It conducts electricity better than gold. Industrial applications that are being developed are staggering in their implications. Research is proceeding VERY rapidly. The EU and China, for example, are investing BILLIONS into this technology. Now the really cool thing is that the materials for carbon based tech can be grown. Follow along here.
Second of these to cross my radar was a project from JapanPowerPlus & AltCaps. They have developed a carbon-based battery technologies. They are using organic cotton or cannabis as base materials. This is a game changer. The power characteristics are fascinating (to geeks like me) and are being applied from capacitors to AA's up to Electric Vehicles (EV's) on a large scale. Using carbon for the anodes & cathodes in their unique design uses no heavy metals nor precious earths. Graphene shells would produce a 100% carbon battery - which recycles back to carbon in a closed loop. Taken to another level, induction charging systems could use carbon tech EV batteries as a distributed grid level storage mechanism. (idea compliments of Dr. David Suzuki)
Dr. Mitlin, conducted his research while at the University of Alberta. Mitlin’s group decided to see if they could make graphene-like carbons from hemp bast fibers. The race toward the ideal supercapacitor has largely focused on graphene — a strong, light material made of atom-thick layers of carbon, which when stacked, can be made into electrodes. Scientists are investigating how they can take advantage of graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive. Dr.Mitlin, who’s now with Clarkson University in New York, states: "Our lithium-ion capacitors are made using bio-derived graphene-like carbon nanosheets. These electrode provide an industry leading energy density of 12 Wh kg–1and specific capacitance of 120 F g–1 ". AltCaps, a new company to develop this technology is taking this to market. Fascinating part of this is that growing the carbon material is cheaper than other methods of manufacturing graphene. Like I said, making things out of carbon. http://altasupercaps.com/
Third brilliant idea are companies that are developing new grapheme materials and 3D graphene printers. This has the potential to impact other industries such as electronics, medical devices and sensor technologies. One Vancouver based company, which is a spinout from Graphene Laboratories, Inc, focuses their efforts on the development and manufacturing of materials for 3D printing which have been enhanced with graphene. Elena Polyakova Founder Graphene Laboratories Inc., Reading
Fourth projects are from from Ireland, Australia, Canada and the US. Today a number of companies are mass producing cannabis based industrial products. One example is "hempcrete" as housing material in both poured and block form. Using the inner core material, hempcrete is used to form walls - capturing tons of CO2 per dwelling. Construction panels, particle board, insulation and roof shingles are being manufactured right now. Regarding the pulp & paper industry, cannabis will produce up to 4x the fiber than pulp wood crops acre for acre. The economics start to become obvious.
Final consideration for the day: Bio-diesel is 11 percent oxygen by weight and contains no sulphur, so instead of creating sulphur-based smog and acid rain as by-products, it produces 11 percent oxygen instead. Bio-diesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed cannabis crops. Exhaust smells like french fries. Cannabis oilseed also works well as a "feed stock" for plastics, cellophane and other oil based products. As interesting as these ideas are, one vital thing is missing: infrastructure. The entire cannabis industry suffers under the stigma of the drug war and 77 years of prohibition. Investment certainly hasn't flowed into this sector. The harvesting, processing and manufacturing technology remains rather under developed. A mere 100,000 acres were cultivated in Canada in 2014. Most of it went to the health food market as hulled hemp seed. Some work has been done in this area, but all the media attention and investor interest hype is focused on a tiny fraction of the potential. In our modern chart, the THC component is a small part of overall whole. If it was a Billion Dollar Crop in 1938… what is it worth today?
IMAGINE: for a moment if a significant portion of our food, clothing and shelter - fuels, plastics, paper and graphene carbon were all grown in a sustainable agricultural loop. Chances are global CO2 levels would start dropping in a decade or two.
Next considerations: Cannabis Civilization 101