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"Hemp" Even Better Than Graphene

A recent discovery at the American Chemical Society Meeting in San Francisco has excited many firms in the storage industry. A group of scientists have presented their discovery that waste fibres from hemp crops can be transformed into incredibly high-performance energy storage devices. In their experiments, the baked the cannabis bark into carbon nanosheets and built supercapacitors reportedly “on a par with or better than graphene” which until now has been considered the best material available for the industry.

The paper, presented in the ACS Journal Nano, states that “By taking advantage of the complex multilayered structure of a hemp bast fiber precursor, such exquisite carbons were able to be achieved by simple hydrothermal carbonization combined with activation. This novel precursor-synthesis route presents a great potential for facile large-scale production of high-performance carbons for a variety of diverse applications including energy storage.”

What wider implications does this have for the industry, and computer hardware such as storage devices? The similarity with cannabis does not make hemp illegal. Dr David Miltin of Clarkson University commented that “The hemp we use is perfectly legal to grow. It has no THC in it at all – so there’s no overlap with any recreational activities”.

There has been huge talk in the graphene field and how it can be applied to storage devices. For example, Scientists in Australia in late 2013 succeeded in creating the first graphene-based optical disk. It has phenomenal implications, with higher security, better data recovery and of course exponentially larger storage capacity. The fact that hemp nanosheets are just as effective, for a fraction of the price is groundbreaking news for this research. The greatest factor in the lower prices is the fact that the hemp fibres used are in fact a waste product. Miltin commented that “A key advantage is that the electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process”. The fibers his team used to make the carbons come from the inner bark of the hemp plant that is otherwise discarded by manufacturers that use hemp to create clothing or other products.

This discovery I seen as a major advancement in the superconductor field and could be the key to a whole new generation of hard drives. A real world application is that the minute size but extreme power of the superconductor could vastly improve memory density in hard drives. The almost instantaneous charge up times could also improve how batteries in our storage devices operate. Typically, super conductors are not always able to store as much energy as normal batteries, but they can recharge instantly. Work has been underway for a considerable time in circumventing this issue and “packing” the nanosheets into smaller spaces. The instant charge time could pave to way for more powerful storage devices, particularly in that of laptops and tablets.
These are just a few applications for superconductors, and the newly created hemp superconductor can only drive interest and research in the field, perhaps paving the way for a whole new generation of electronics.

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