Hemp Can’t Get You High, But It Can Get High-Tech

Hemp Can’t Get You High, But It Can Get High-Tech

This post was originally featured on TechCrunch.com 

Marijuana is an ancient plant with borderline mystical properties — just ask the 266 million people who smoke it every year. Hemp, the industrial strain of Cannabis sativa, has been used for many purposes — food, fuel and textiles among them — for tens of thousands of years. Unlike its sister strain, hemp can’t get you high. But much like the drug, it has extraordinary qualities.

America is no stranger to hemp. In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with hemp and George Washington farmed it at Mt. Vernon. Unfortunately, its full potential was never realized; drug restrictions that banned marijuana suppressed hemp, too. This spurious conflation quashed the industry for about 60 years, until a 2014 farm bill defined it as an agricultural crop, leaving the door ajar to American farmers.

As marijuana laws continue to loosen across the country — and the world — it looks like hemp could be brought back in a big way. With China leading in worldwide hemp production and Canadahaving capitalized on it during America’s drug war, now is the time to get in the game. In today’s fast-paced and tech-driven world, this means re-adopting the plant for today’s innovation economy.

Hemp could make a huge difference in everyday products, certainly. But even more exciting are the groundbreaking research and high-tech products it’s already spearheading.

Amazing properties

Before we launch into some of hemp’s cooler applications, it’s important to understand just what makes hemp so unique.

First and foremost, hemp is incredibly environmentally friendly. Instead of depleting the land’s nutrients, like cotton does, hemp actually puts nitrogen back into the soil. It takes less water, but produces more plants per acre (for reference, one acre of hemp produces four times the paper an acre of trees does.) Its low lignin content and natural brightness reduces the need for pulping and bleaching, meaning fewer chemicals are needed all around.

Hemp grows in a wide variety of soils and climates, so it can be harvested in all 50 states (though only about half legally). It’s one of the strongest plant fibers and is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. It harvests quickly, growing 10 to 20 feet in just four months.

Then you have hemp seeds, an incredible source of protein. More than 25 percent of their calories come from high-quality protein, considerably more than similar foods like chia seeds and flax seeds. Various studies have linked them to a reduction in risk of heart disease and easing of PMS and digestion.

Hemp is also ideal for the production of ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline. Combustion releases water vapor and CO2, which plants absorb.

It’s no wonder hemp is called a smart plant, as it seems almost too good to be true, especially in a world rife with environmental and climate concerns. Considering farmers need the DEA’s approval before sowing seeds, there is still a barrier to entry — for now, anyway.

Future-forward applications

Restrictions aside, preliminary research has yielded results that only confirm hemp’s potential, and not just as an everyday alternative to cotton and wood, but for high-tech innovations.

Ever heard of graphene? Hemp fiber is also incredibly strong and light, and Dr. David Mitlin, a scientist from Clarkson University in New York, says his team has mimicked the nanomaterial’s amazing qualities using hemp waste. According to Dope Magazine:

Dr. Mitlin and his team were able to recycle leftover hemp-based fiber, cook it down and then dissolve it until carbon nanosheets that resembled the structure of graphene were left behind. They proceeded to build these nanosheets into powerful energy-storing supercapacitors with high energy density, thus creating a hemp based “graphene.”

The best part? This graphene-like hemp costs only a fraction of the price of traditional graphene: $500 a ton compared to $2,000 per gram. Dr. Mitlin also suspects the hemp-based product could outperform graphene.

Another amazing product is hempcrete, a concrete made with hemp and lime. For construction, hempcrete is essentially a super-concrete: Its negative COfootprint alleviates the greenhouse effect and improves air quality. Its natural insulation keeps homes warm or cool, reducing need for energy. Its resistance to cracks under high pressure makes it well-suited for earthquake-prone areas. It’s even mold, fire and termite proof.

Hemp also can be used to create bacteria-fighting fabrics. As early as the 1990s, scientists in China were developing blended hemp fabrics with superior resistance to staph in order to prevent sometimes fatal infections in hospitals. Considering at least two million Americans get staph infections when hospitalized, and 90,000 die, this could be a life-saving innovation here in the U.S.

Luckily, Colorado company EnviroTextiles is on it. The company’s hemp-rayon fabric blend has shown in preliminary studies to be 98.5 percent staph resistant and 65.1 percent pneumonia-free. In addition, EnviroTextiles offers hemp fabric resistant to UV and infrared wavelengths, ideal for military purposes.

What’s next?

These are just a few of the many high-tech and future-forward applications hemp has. As a form of sustainable agriculture, hemp farming holds enormous potential — for the planet, the economy, and even veterans seeking employment. Once the hemp is produced, it may not get you high, but figuratively, the sky’s the limit.

After all, how fitting is it for an ancient plant, used both 10,000 years ago and in early America, to continue its legacy in our modern world? Betsy’s hemp-based flag became a symbol for the country, which is now a leader in technological innovation. It would be foolish not to take the bull by the horns and ride it.

Check Out The New High-Tech Mercedes Benz Stadium

Check Out The New High-Tech Mercedes Benz Stadium

The progression of getting the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium constructed was an effort that began in December of 2012. With it slated to open next year, the architectural marvel will be soon realized, and the Atlanta Falcons will finally have their state-of-the-art stadium. In collaboration with some tech and entertainment leaders, the arena is touted to ensure the best user experience.

The Falcons along with Daktronics, a company that creates large display systems, are working together to produce a venue that will offer a 63,000 square foot HD Halo video board, giving every fan a 360-degree view of the action. And if that isn’t enough, 2,000 video displays will be available for fans to watch the games — each of them connected through a stadium-controlled IPTV (Internet Protocol Television).

Along with Miller, the Atlanta Falcons Scott Jenkins, general manager of the then named “Atlanta stadium”, will work alongside Jared Miller, CTO of AMB Sport & Entertainment Group, to oversee the operations of the arena. Miller, who has been responsible for bringing tech-to-field, takes great pride in the project, “I’m very proud of what we’re deploying and I’m also very excited to see it all come to life.”

Another collaboration will include working with IBM, who will make sure the stadium’s tech will function without any incidents, creating — according to them — a “smarter stadium”. This intelligent playground will feature state-of-the-art sustainability technology, as well as IT prowess. Passive Optical Network (PON), a fiber optic network to ensure super-connectivity,  which will actually consume less energy. With its 1,800 wireless access and over 4,000 miles of fiber will serve 75,000 occupants, while increasing efficiency and overall energy costs. This is expected to be a huge accomplishment as PON will have its maiden voyage within an NFL stadium.

PON is just one of the conservation initiatives the stadium will bestow. According to Mercedes-Benz Stadium website, the stadium will be “[…] the latest sustainable advancements related to design, construction and operations, becoming a model of healthy environment for healthy bodies.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium solar design renderings

Here are some more ways they will accomplish that per their site:

  1. WATER
    LEED (U.S. Water efficiency credits): which will include rainwater acquisition and reuse
    Solar PV panels and electric vehicle charging stations in parking areas.
    Natural energies and LED lighting that will reduce usage up to 50 percent.

The ultimate goal for the venue is to create the best possible fan experience while maintaining a conscientious design using ingenious concepts, tech, and architecture. No doubt, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be a stunning display of next-level sustainable technologies that Atlanta, the Falcons, and fans are anxious to see revealed.

But if you’re a fan who can’t wait, you won’t have to. The newest iteration of the video game “Madden” combines renderings of the stadium, where players can experience it ‘first-hand’. This is a fitting tech response to an upcoming tech wonder.

If you don’t intend on buying the video game and want a tour, click HERE or below for a virtual tour.