Hemp waste fibers form basis of supercapacitor more conductive than graphene

scientist says hemp fibers are better than graphene 8812369 ml
David Maska / 123RF
Comprised of a lone hexagonal honeycomb lattice layer of tightly packed carbon atoms, graphene is one of the strongest, lightest, and most conductive compounds ever discovered. Bottom line, it’s an extraordinary composite. However, a scientist from New York’s Clarkson University says he’s found a way to manufacture hemp waste into a material “better than graphene.” Moreover, the scientist — known to his peers as Dr. David Mitlin — says creating this graphene-like hemp material costs but a minuscule fraction of what it takes to produce graphene.

Presented at an American Chemical Society Meeting in San Francisco, Dr. Mitlin described how he and his team were able to recycle leftover hemp bast fiber into powerful energy-storing supercapacitors. To do this, Mitlin says he first cooked the leftover fibers to achieve hydrothermal synthesis. After the hemp’s lignin and semicellulose dissolve, what’s left are carbon nanosheets incredibly similar to the structure of graphene. He then built the resulting sheets into electrodes and added an ionic liquid for its electrolyte to create a batch of supercapacitors boasting a high energy density.

A stalk of hemp
A stalk of hemp Wikimedia

“Obviously, hemp can’t do all the things graphene can,” Mitlin acknowledged. “But for energy storage, it works just as well. And it costs a fraction of the price [at] $500 to $1,000 a tonne.”

Countries like Canada, China, and the United Kingdom rely heavily on industrially grown hemp for use in clothing, jewelry, building materials, among other applications. What’s left over after these goods are created is the aforementioned bast fiber, which typically finds its way to landfills. Additionally, Mitlin points out that the hemp used to create the graphene-like supercapacitor is entirely legal to grow and contains absolutely zero traces of THC.

“Fifty miles down the road from my house in Alberta there was an agricultural hemp processing facility and all that bast fiber, it just sits in a high bay, and they don’t know what to do with it,” Mitlin tells BBC News. “It’s a waste product looking for a value-added application. People are almost paying you to take it away.”

With everything from electric cars to power tools having the ability to make use of supercapacitors, it seems quite possible that Mitlin’s discovery could oust graphene from its reign as the gold standard of energy-storing materials.

Emerging Tech

Life after launch: Inside the massive effort to preserve NASA’s space artifacts

The Apollo 11 mission put a man on the moon, but NASA didn’t necessarily preserve every step of the process. Researchers are trying to rescue the history on Earth and on the moon.
Home Theater

Five questions we need answered after watching Stranger Things season 3

Stranger Things expanded its world quite a bit in season 3, but the hit Netflix series still left audiences with plenty of questions about what the future holds for the show and some of the core elements of its mythology.
Movies & TV

Here are the best shows on Netflix right now (July 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Bacteria could help mass-produce wonder material graphene at scale

Researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands have figured out how to produce wonder material graphene by mixing oxidized graphite with bacteria. Here's why their work could be a game-changer.
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.
Emerging Tech

IBM’s Wimbledon-watching A.I. is poised to revolutionize sports broadcasts

IBM has developed a smart A.I. with an appreciation for what makes a great tennis match like the recent epic at Wimbledon. Here's how IBM developed it -- and why tools like it are the future of sport broadcasting.
News

SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket bursts into flames during tests

SpaceX ran into trouble Tuesday evening when a small fire erupted from the engine of a prototype rocket it was testing at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. It's not clear if the fire caused any damage to the rocket itself
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here's all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Emoji Day, Apollo 11 broadcast, drone flamethrowers

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the top stories in tech, including Emoji Day festivities, the extended battery life of the new Nintendo Switch, an Apollo 11 real-time broadcast, and a functional flamethrower attachment for drones.
Emerging Tech

6 questions we have about Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain interface technology

Elon Musk's Neuralink sounds like an exciting leap forward for human-computer relations, but brain implants raise the specter of Black Mirror-esque privacy invasions. We have a few questions about how this would work.
News

Canadian medical project demonstrates the health care potential of smart homes

A medical project involving smart homes demonstrates the technology's potential in treating mental illness and providing patients with a level of independence previously thought impossible.
Emerging Tech

Implant restores sight in blind patients by beaming images directly to the brain

Engineers have developed a neural implant which could help restore vision for completely blind people by bypassing non-functioning optical nerves and inputting images directly into their brains.
Deals

Ride in style with the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter for $97 less post-Prime Day

Scooters started out as a plaything for kids. But now they are larger and have become a common and efficient means to commute, like the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter. It's available on Amazon as a post-Prime Day deal for $97 less.