Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York have developed hemp-derived rebar that the team says is more resistant to corrosion and produces a significantly smaller carbon footprint than rebar made from steel, according to a Dezeen report.
The hemp rebar consists of intertwined natural hemp fiber that has been encased in thermoplastic — the result is a strong, highly durable, and corrosion-resistant reinforcement for cement-based construction projects.
Alexandros Tsamis, assistant professor of architecture and associate director of RPI’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, said in the report that concrete structures “in environments with high salt concentration” have an expected lifetime of “40-50 years” due to the corrosion of steel-based rebar.
“If the rebar was not corroding, it would be three times that much, and that would create a significant overall contribution to cutting carbon emissions, because you have three times more service life for every single thing you make.” — Tsamis, via Dezeen
While their work has yet to be peer-reviewed, the research team believes the hemp-based rebar will match steel rebar in strength and reliability but will surpass it in terms of environmental impact and overall efficiency, as the hemp rebar can be produced more quickly using a CNC machine that reads digital files to forge, cut, and shape the rebar on-site.
The hemp research is one of the first projects to come from Rensselaer’s new Institute for Energy, Built Environment, and Smart Systems, according to a press release. The researchers are also working to create machines for separating hemp fiber from the plant’s inner, woody core without affecting the material’s overall durability, and to develop sustainable degumming methods and new hemp bio-composite processing methods, according to the release.
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