hemp plant

Hemp-based Rebar Could Open up New Possibilities in the Construction Industry Replacing Steel, Claim New York Researchers


The ‘hemp’ plant is probably more known to the present-day world for its use as marijuana, especially since cannabis liberalization has been an ongoing process in many states of the U.S. for the last few decades.

But industrial hemp has many other uses because it is used for making textiles, shoes, rope, food, paper, insulation, and biofuel, among other things. It has also been extensively used in the field of building construction, because of its lightweight and mold-resistant properties. These characteristics of hemp have once again come into strong focus in modern times.

Rebar, or steel-reinforced bar, is a bar used in masonry structure to reinforce and hold the concrete together since concrete does not have the tensile strength to hold on its own.

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A research team working in Rensselaer Polytechnic institute, which is one of America’s early technological research universities, has come up with a hemp-based solution for new reinforcing technology in the manufacture of cement.

The studies done so far on the issue have been satisfactory, as the strength characteristics of the hemp-using product are found to be similar to that of steel. The product has also got the ability to reduce carbon footprint in its surroundings.

The construction industry is happy about the eco-friendliness of hemp. However, for making rebar out of hemp, better technology and equipment are required for stalk-processing, separating hemp fiber, and manufacturing the end product.

And for developing all these, more information on the different properties of hemp fiber needs to be obtained for fine-tuning all stages of production.

Alexandros Tsamis is the Graduate Program Director of Built Ecologies and the associate director of CASE or Center for Architecture Science and Ecology. Dan Walczyk is Professor and Director, Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS).

Together, they are engaged in developing machines with the right technology to remove fibers of hemp away from the woody inner core of the plant, without damaging the mechanical properties of the fibers.

The Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems, known as EBESS, based in the city of New York, is focused on finding technological solutions for reducing carbon footprint in urban areas.

They rely significantly on renewable energy sources and live material in construction for achieving their goals. Research on hemp for producing rebars is among the organization’s first projects.

Robert Hull, the Henry Burlage Professor, and acting vice president for research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said that the institute was happy to make its contribution in the endeavor to turn hemp into an industrially useful and commercially viable product.

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He was speaking at a workshop organized to discuss the growth of the hemp industry in New York, and the markets available for it.

Hull pointed out how Rensselaer was a place that had nurtured top-notch researchers and contained platforms aimed at promoting innovation and detection in cutting-edge manufacturing, and in the society’s built-environment with its supporting infrastructure.

According to him, Rensselaer’s main focus is to develop programs and products which will reduce carbon footprint in the construction field. Making industrial hemp a part of New York’s construction activities will be one of these environment-enhancing initiatives.


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