Composite materials are derived from fibers, whether natural or synthetic. The fiber gives the composite its tensile strength, ultimately enhancing its performance. Although, within a composite matrix, natural fibers are actually bundled together and held by lignin, so a single natural fiber alone doesn’t fully make up fiber composites.
Hemp fibers are found in the stem of the cannabis plant. Like many other natural, or bast, fibers such as bamboo, coconut, flax, jute, sisal, kenaf, and more, hemp fibers act as strong reinforcement in composite materials. Glass fibers are the oldest and most common fiber reinforcement and incredibly enough, the mechanical properties of hemp fiber are comparable to glass fibers according to a review in the Journal of Composite Materials.
Because of hemp’s incredible properties that act as reinforcements in composites, it is currently being used in the automotive industries for reinforcement of door panels, passenger rear decks, pillars, and boot linings. Hemp fiber is also being used in the construction industry to make an alternative to building materials. Ever hear of hempcrete? Other industries that are taking advantage of hemp fibers include:
- Pulp and paper
- Thermal insulation