EPA funding hemp-pulping research in California

A project to make the process of extracting cellulose fibers from hemp more sustainable is getting a fresh round of funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are working on new methods of pulping hemp plants to delignify hemp stalks without leaving behind toxic chemicals known as “black liquor.”

Engineering professor Charles Cai has developed a method to pulp hemp stalks and hurd that leaves behind only mineral ash. His pulping method won a grant last year from the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet Program.

The school announced this week that the EPA has awarded Cai an additional $74,822 to study commercial applications for the process.

Cai’s “one-pot” method separates hemp stalks into:

  • Pulped fiber.
  • Lignin.
  • Extracts.
  • Sugars.

The school now plans to work with hemp companies to commercialize the method, including creating large hempcrete blocks. Research partners include:

  • InnovaCan.
  • Hempire USA.
  • Match Patch Pro.
  • The Hurd Co.

The next phase of EPA funding runs through 2022.

2 comments on “EPA funding hemp-pulping research in California
  1. Doug on

    Good, there’s hope. We simply have to stop taking the lazy way out by sending our employment profits to China. There are parts of the USA that fall below third world levels of poverty. It’s time to round up the unemployed, train them and get things rolling properly, here at home. If the stinking rich have any gratitude and devotion to their country they will show that by supporting the country that made them rich.

  2. Global Hemp on

    There are dozens of methods to pulp wood and non-woody materials. However, many of them have trade-off’s such as not being economically viable, or not being able to scale-up beyond “bench scale” or “pilot scale.” We have worked with multiple mechanical and chemical methods for performing the same — though in the past mostly focused on “cottonizing” the fiber for textiles. Our goal is to have both technical and economic viability, but to also do so by adhering to the principals of Green Chemistry. With that said, we do have very promising results from being able to pulp hemp plants in a closed loop process, and all products that would otherwise be waste are valorized.

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