Could Hemp Pectin Make For Better Plywood?

What is currently being treated as a waste product from the processing of hemp may have potential in improving plywood and composite lumbers.

Plywood and composite timber products can contain all sorts of nasty chemicals for binding. Among the greener and safer potential alternatives being investigated is pectin. Pectin is a jelly-like soluble fiber found in most plants, including hemp. It’s already widely for food purposes as a vegan-friendly alternative to gelatin, which is derived from animals.

The primary materials used in pectin production are dried citrus peels or apple pomace (peel, pulp, and seeds), left over from juice production.

Increasing amounts of hemp are being grown for cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabinoid being pursued for its various therapeutic benefits – both proven and yet to be proved. The extraction process creates pectin as a waste byproduct.

A faculty and student research team from Virginia Tech’s Department of Sustainable Biomaterials is working to determine if this pectin could be utilised as an additive in glues used to produce composite lumber products.

Emillie Kohler, who is studying sustainable biomaterials, spent the summer performing undergraduate research with Dr. Chip Frazier. Ms. Kohler isolated hemp pectin from hemp flower to see it would be a good potential modifier for wood adhesives.

“Hemp is used in a lot of industries, mainly CBD and that’s what we’re interested in because the CBD industry produces a lot of extracted waste, sometimes ethanol extracted waste, that they either throw out or go to compost.”

All pectins are not equal when it comes to adhesive properties. According to Dr. Frazier there are two categories. Higher methoxyl pectin is used in jellies or jams as the sugar content enables it to gel. Lower methoxyl pectin  – the type found in hemp – are more common in adhesives.

The jury is still out whether hemp pectin is a contender, but it’s reportedly showing promise.

The potential for hemp in a multitude of applications is mind-boggling. It’s been said it has more than 25,000 uses and while those have never been fully listed it wouldn’t be surprising if it turns out to be true.

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