Study Will Explore Hemp as an Alternative Fuel

Explore HempThe University of Louisville began growing hemp for research last year, however a second batch of hemp will be grown at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy to explore hemp’s incredible properties as an alternative fuel source. Researchers will study the plant and look at ways that hemp could replace current fuel sources.

According to the agenda, researchers at the Conn Center are pursuing three hemp-to-energy categories: Convert hemp into functionalized carbons, convert hemp seed oil into biocompatible resins for 3-D printed medical implants and extracting sugars from hemp for use in diesel additives. The research has already led to two patented invention disclosures.

“The research that we’re doing in particular for biofuels and biomass conversion centers around catalyst research, so conversion of oils into chemicals and fuels, as well as converting plant matter into valuable resources, extracting sugars and doing lignocellulosic separations,” assistant director Andrew Marsh told WKYU FM. “We’re unique in the fact that we’re undertaking research on hemp that’s converted to solve particular energy problems.”

Hemp was planted at the University of Louisville last August, however this year, two varieties of hemp will be grown as well as an African fiber-rich plant called Kenaf. The August batch yielded a few dozen pounds of raw hemp.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed a pilot hemp program in the state in 2014 with 33 acres. In 2016, 137 growers were approved to grow up to 4,500 acres. Now everyone wants to get aboard. On January 5, The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said it approved 209 applications from growers, which allows them to produce up to 12,800 acres of hemp.

Many have argued that hemp could help revamp Kentucky’s agricultural sector, and research helps to buoy up the hemp industry. Hemp production surprisingly flourished in Kentucky during the 19th century when Lexington served as the epicenter of hemp fiber production. At that time, Kentucky produced over 90 percent of the nation’s hemp supply. The current research could help bring Kentucky back to its glory days as a hemp powerhouse.

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