The work will center on a cleaner method for converting hemp fibers to pulp. Hempcrete has a number of environmental benefits, although the current production method produces large amounts of byproduct consisting of lignin residue and organic sulfides.
“Our project goal is to produce hempcrete as a lighter, stronger and more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional fossil-based concrete. The students are trying out different compositions and processing conditions to create ‘a green chemistry’ approach,” Charles Cai, an adjunct professor for chemical and environmental engineering and assistant research engineer at the University’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology, tells Science Times. The EPA funds will be used to test a one-step process to separate lignin from plant biomass at low temperatures, he adds.