Newswise — Hemp is going to be a game-changer across many industries, from building and construction to agriculture, all while reducing our carbon footprint, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is leading the way in making that a reality. 

A team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is creating several innovative and cost‐effective hemp processing technologies that have given rise to the development of a hemp‐based rebar reinforcing technology for cement.

Alexandros Tsamis, assistant professor of architecture and associate director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, and Dan Walczyk, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Manufacturing Innovation Center are working to create machines that can separate the hemp fibers from the inner, woody core of the plant without adversely affecting its mechanical properties. They are also developing a sustainable degumming method and new hemp bio-composite processing methods.

With the hemp-based rebar, Tsamis and Walczyk are addressing the issues that occur due to steel corrosion by replacing steel with a natural fiber-reinforced thermoplastic rebar. Preliminary results have shown a significant reduction in carbon footprint, as well as strength characteristics comparable to steel. The project aims to extend the lifetime of cement‐based buildings and infrastructure. 

This hemp research is among the first projects to come from the new Institute for Energy, Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS) at Rensselaer. By harnessing the expertise in design, engineering, and business across the university, EBESS is developing a holistic plan for a sustainable and economically viable hemp industry that can help to reduce the carbon footprint of built environments and have a real impact on tackling climate change.