The use of hemp fibers as reinforcement in composite materials has increased in recent years as a response to the increasing demand for developing biodegradable, sustainable, and recyclable materials. Hemp fibers are found in the stem of the plant which makes them strong and stiff, a primary requirement for the reinforcement of composite materials. Themechanical properties of hemp fibers are comparable to those of glass fibers. Composites made of hemp fibers with thermoplastic, thermoset, and biodegradable matrices have exhibited good mechanical properties. A number of hemp fiber surface treatments, used to improve the fiber/matrix interfacial bonding, have resulted in considerable improvements in the composites’ mechanical properties.
The most rapidly expanding application for hemp fiber is composites. Typical applications include automotive interior substrates, aviation composites, furniture and other consumer products. Hemp fiber is also used to produce mineral based composites, in much the same way polypropylene or glass fiber is used to reinforce cement or plaster. The use of injection molding technology is also starting to gain ground using hemp fiber as a reinforcing material allowing hemp fiber to be used in more complex shapes and structures.
More than two million cars and trucks in North America use biocomposites. These are made of nonwoven hemp matting and polypropylene or epoxy pressed into parts such as door panels, window pillars, package trays, trunk liners and luggage racks. These biocomposites are used in place of heavier and less safe fiberglass composites.
The applications are numerous, hemp fiber has incredible potential as a cost effective option for companies implementing sustainable and environmentally sound building practices.