An Australian company has created a new material from plastic and cannabis that it says is safe and versatile, and which can be used to make the kind of high-tech gadgets that we expect to see in our smartphones.
The company, which has received funding from the Australian Research Council, says its hemp-based polymer is as safe as a standard polycarbonate, and can be manufactured with a “tremendous range of different processes”.
“It’s not a new technology, it’s not something that’s coming out of nowhere,” said the company’s chief executive, Tom Gulli.
“It has a very long history in manufacturing in Australia, and in particular in the hemp industry, and we believe it’s the best material for making high-performance plastics and plastics composite materials.”
Mr Gull, who started his career in plastics manufacturing, said his company had successfully tested hemp-silicon-based polymers, which are the basis for a wide range of consumer products including medical implants, clothing, and even the world’s first solar-powered mobile phone.
“We’ve had a lot of success with it so far,” he said.
“Our main concern is the toxicity and it is still very experimental so we have to be very careful.”
Mr Guldi said the hemp-material could be used in a wide variety of applications, including in food processing, medical devices, and aerospace manufacturing.
“In general, we are very happy with hemp,” he added.
“The hemp is a very good material for manufacturing plastics, and the hemp can be very versatile.”
For example, hemp can also be used as a plasticizer, or to make ceramics and in the manufacture of a variety of products, like clothes and pharmaceuticals.
“Mr Grinberg said hemp was “very flexible, very strong and very flexible”, and that it could be a very useful material for a variety “of applications”.”
We are seeing hemp materials in everything from clothing to medical devices and medical implants,” he explained.”
You could take a fibre and make a lot more elasticity in your fabric than if you used other materials.
“There’s a lot that we can learn from hemp.”
Mr Bridgette Kowalchuk, who has a doctorate in plastic manufacturing, and is a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, said hemp could be applied to materials ranging from clothing, medical implants and even “some of the smallest things that are on your clothes”.
“The material is flexible and has a great ability to stretch and stretch and compress,” she said.
Dr Kowalschuk said the technology was not new, and that “many” research papers had been published on the potential benefits of hemp and its potential applications.
“But I think the hemp itself has a lot to offer,” she explained.
Ms Kowaleskchuk said she hoped the company could eventually create a new polymer that could be more flexible, less toxic and more resilient than standard plastics.
“One thing I think is really important is that we make a polymer that’s actually safe for human use,” she added.’
It’s a bit of a wildcard’Despite its potential, hemp is not the only material on the horizon.
Mr Günther Gündl, a chemist at the Institute of Materials and Environmental Engineering in Vienna, is also exploring the possibility of producing polymers from hemp.
“Polymers are very useful for materials science,” he told the ABC.
“I think it’s a very interesting area and I think it can also provide us with new opportunities for materials and the environment.”
“Hemp is an important source of polymers for many applications in the area of biofuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and many other areas.”
Mr Kowalkaschuk said while hemp could not be made from a plant, she hoped it could help in other areas of science.
“Hemophane is a really good material to use for certain kinds of materials because it has a good conductivity, which is really nice for materials that you could use to make flexible plastics,” she noted.
“This material is a little bit of an unknown and there are lots of opportunities in it.”