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Mad Hemp Science: New Techniques Bring Hemp Back to Life

Nicholas Demski
Written by Nicholas Demski

The hauntingly surprising results of a study recently published in Industrial Crops and Products.

Dr. Frankenstein was a good person.

Warm and loving, if not egoistic, he wanted nothing more than to create a new race of beings that he could tend to like a father.

Unfortunately, his first experiment was a disaster. If the monster he created had been stopped before it left his laboratory, he perhaps could have kept experimenting and fine-tuning his results until he successfully cheated death. He could have published a paper in The Necromancer Journal and other crazy doctors could have replicated his experiment and found ways to improve upon it.

Interestingly, there’s been a new technique for extraction developed for hemp derivatives, but the results created the opposite of a monster. In fact, it brings what might be otherwise wasted bits of hemp back to life.

The same reason that hemp is good for industrial uses is the same reason that it’s so difficult to break down. It’s a formidable plant with layers of compounds that can be difficult to deconstruct even through mechanical work.

So, researchers wanted to test an experimental method of comprehensive hemp extraction: hemp steam treatment. [1]

With the goal of separating the hard, woody interior—the hurd—from the softer, fibrous material— the stalk—the hot water and steam method of separation was tested at temperatures between 100 and 160°C for 1 hour.

To begin with, the researchers noticed aesthetic differences. They found that the lowest temperatures degraded the color of the biomass and made it easy to peel off the bark. At higher temperatures, the plants turned brown.

Next, they tested the fibers’ physical properties and noted decreased tensile strength; the authors suggested that decreased treatment time could help maintain fiber integrity.

After examining more closely, they reported that with increased temperature also came increased hemicellulose extraction. They also found they could thermally manipulate which compounds could be extracted.

For example: when heated to 100°C, any of the compounds extracted from dry hemp stalk could also be found at 120 and 160°C. However, at 120°C, they found the production of 1-monopalmin in the extractions. When heated to 160°C, they noted the formation of:

  • Vanillin
  • Syringaldehyde
  • Sinapaldehyde
  • 5-allyl-1-methoxy-2,3-dihydroxybenzene
  • Ferulic acid

While this pioneering study provides little commercial value at the moment, it may be the basis for future research into the total extraction of hemp. The researchers successfully demonstrated the ability to separate the hurd from the stalk using hemp steam treatment while collecting their extractions. [1] Vanillin is the main component in the extract of vanilla beans, and while synthetically produced vanillin dominates the market, natural vanilla commands more dollars per unit. Syringaldehyde is a strong anti-oxidant [2], and a quick scan of ferulic acid uses highlights anti-aging applications.

Thankfully, the researchers’ hemp didn’t rise up from the dead, roll them with their own fibers, and smoke them. Instead, they can return to the lab and continue to fine-tune their new technique.

References

  1. Väisänen, T., et al. “Effect of Steam Treatment on the Chemical Composition of Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and Identification of the Extracted Carbohydrates and Other Compounds.” Industrial Crops and Products, 131, 2019. [Times cited = 1; Journal Impact Factor = 4.191]
  2. Ibrahim, M et al. “A concise review of the natural existence, synthesis, properties, and applications of syringaldehyde,” BioResources, vol. 7(3), 2012, pp. 2820-2832. [Times cited = 25; Journal Impact Factor = 1.396]

About the author

Nicholas Demski

Nicholas Demski

Nicholas Demski's latest venture is TheCannabiologist.com. He's a poet, author, cannabis writer, and budding entrepreneur. You can follow his travels with his daughter on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram @TheSingleDadNoma

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