Hemp could be on the verge of joining the growing number of weeds that could power your car. Researchers at the University of Connecticut have found that industrial hemp seeds could make an ideal feedstock for biofuel production. Slight hitch: growing hemp, industrial or otherwise, is still illegal in the U.S. However, given that medical marijuana is rapidly approaching mainstream status and some states are relaxing marijuana-related laws, the chances for an industrial hemp comeback look a little brighter.
Biodiesel from Hemp
A couple of things about hemp make it ideal as a sustainable biofuel. First of all, industrial hemp is not a food crop. Second, it flourishes in sub-quality soil with a minimal amount of water or fertilizer. The UConn research team found that 97 percent of the virgin hemp seed oil they tested converted to biodiesel, and this high efficiency of conversion offers good potential for commercial production. The team also found that hemp seed biodiesel could be used at lower temperatures than other biodiesels currently in use.
Plenty of Room for Hemp Biodiesel
With hemp production barred here in the U.S., the researchers hope their findings will prove useful in other countries where hemp is grown, since in most cases the seeds are simply discarded. In any case, as mentioned above, chances are that the ban will eventually be lifted, not only because of relaxing cultural attitudes about hemp in general but also because the U.S. military is going heavily in for biofuels, with camelina biofuel for Air Force and Navy fighter planes leading the way.