Whoever takes up Elon Musk’s latest challenge could be in for a financial windfall — but it would benefit everyone on the planet. On Thursday, Musk — the founder of Tesla and SpaceX — tweeted he would donate $100 million towards a prize for designing effective carbon capture technology, with other details to come at a later date.
Musk, who heads Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said he’ll unveil details of the prize next week. But his past statements suggest that one of his key goals is to lower the price of direct-air carbon capture so it can feasibly be used to make synthetic rocket fuel, replacing the fossil fuels used now.
Hemp batteries and hemp as a fuel source may sound far fetched to an average consumer, but those who are aware of hemp know the potential. These technologies don’t need to be invented, but like hemp plastics, already exist and are waiting to be adopted by the market. Robert Murray-Smith and Steve have a video from 2016, which shows how they built their hemp battery, and how it compares in performance to lithium batteries. According to the tests they ran in 2016, Murray-Smith was able to find that hemp performed even better than Lithium batteries under stress. In 2019 they have already improved their process in hemp processing and preparation to make even superior batteries. They have improved output by 20% and found how to limit corrosion to the metal of the cell. Another improvement, suggested by Karabetter, was to add some water to hemp ink to one layer of ink and then to layer ink unmixed with water over it. Hemp carbon is then sieved over the ink to add an even coating. All of them are then mixed to make a relatively thick, adherent layer of carbon coating, improving the performance of hemp as a fuel source even further.
WHY DOES HEMP WORK AS A BATTERY OR AS A FUEL SOURCE? Not only is hemp able to conduct electricity, it can be made into materials as hard as steel, hemp is also a valid source of biodiesel fuel. While hemp powered batteries show great promise for the industry of the electric automobile, anything that runs off regular diesel can use biodiesel. While biofuel still deals with emissions and thus a carbon footprint, the process of producing such fuel is much cleaner.
In addition to this, hemp can be used to make ethanol, which is typically produced through using wheat-based crops, including corn. While these substances work to make ethanol, using hemp as the basis for the production of ethanol allows for food stores to be used for supplying food rather than being cut into to produce fuel. Hemp’s ability to perform phytoremediation also poses a great benefit, where other crops need ideal soil to grow in, hemp can perform well in poor soil, and leave it in a better state after every harvest. Instead of taking from the food industry, relying on hemp to produce ethanol will improve soil quality and availability for other crops. This fuel is also versatile and can be used to power a wide range of machines, including conventional consumer vehicles. Although ethanol is an imperfect solution to fossil fuels, at least it leans away from the addiction the world has on fracking. Exxon’s oil spills aren’t news to anyone who has paid attention in the last decade, as they have caused massive pollution, which has killed millions of birds and other wildlife in a single incident. Hemp production has no such effects, although pesticides and other materials used during grows may pose a threat to the surrounding ecosystem. However, if cultivators are responsible, then there is no higher risk than growing any other crop in the agricultural industry.
Although hemp led to an economic boom, humans have relied on hemp for thousands of years. It’s not that the modern industries should replace plastic, fuel, cotton, and other materials with hemp, but that they should revert their decision to replace hemp with these unsustainable and non-biodegradable substances. Although biodiesel and ethanol produced from hemp is still being developed, and will likely need to wait for the hemp industry to mature for it to become economically viable, auto manufacturers like Porsche, Ford, and Honda are already incorporating hemp into their production. Hemp only takes months to produce while metals form over thousands of years, making hemp a cheaper substance to source, and because of the lightweight nature of hemp. It is also flexible and ideal for serval parts of manufacturing. Considering that these titans in the car industries are already using hemp to build their cars, it will not be long until they start looking into incorporating hemp batteries into electric automobiles and offering hemp-based biofuel as an alternative to gasoline. It’s profitable, sustainable, and popular, so it’s only a matter of time. The application of this technology is nearly endless, as it could be applied to simple household electronics or general heating. If the automobile industry adopts hemp as an energy source, though, it will significantly hasten the adoption of such energy sources. As soon as it’s proven to be a valid market alternative, the hemp energy market share will likely explode.
Could industrial hemp be part of the future of battery powered vehicles? Fresh research into the efficacy of hemp batteries says yes. There is indeed precedent for this. An iteration of Henry Ford’s original Model T was partially composed of hemp ‘bioplastic’ and powered by hemp biofuel.
In 1941 Ford presented what should have been a groundbreaking invention: a car powered by and largely built by hemp.In 1941, Popular Mechanics described Ford’s work as “ a step toward materialization of Henry Ford’s belief that someday he would “grow automobiles from the soil.” Now, with battery-powered vehicles beginning to supplant those that use combustion engines, researchers are constantly looking for sustainable and efficient ways to create battery power. Late last year, research demonstrated that hemp batteries can be more powerful than commonly used lithium and graphene. Researcher and popular YouTuber Robert Murray Smith discusses the experiment at length in a recent video. He began by observing a Volts by Amps curve of both the lithium and hemp batteries. Much to his surprise, the power beneath the hemp cell 31 times greater than that of the lithium cell. The use of hemp in batteries is not new. In 2014, researchers in the US discovered that unused fibers from hemp can be converted into “ultrafast” batteries that are “better than graphene.” Dr. David Mitlin of Clarkson University, New York led this experiment into hemp tech. Scientists ‘cooked’ waste bark fibers of hemp and transformed them into ‘carbon nanosheets.’ This process has since been dubbed ‘hydrothermal synthesis.’ Subsequently, the team was about to transform fibers into high volume capacitors. Such ‘supercapacitors’ have represented a paradigm shift in the way energy is stored. “With banana peels, you can turn them into a dense block of carbon – we call it pseudo-graphite – and that’s great for sodium ion batteries,” Mitlin explained. “But if you look at hemp fibre its structure is the opposite – it makes sheets with high surface area – and that’s very conducive to supercapacitors.” A peer-reviewed paper ranks the capacitors “on par with or better than commercial graphene-based devices.”