UConn Researchers Find New Biodiesel Feedstock*

Hemp Plant

Hemp plant, courtesy of University of Connecticut

*not legal in U.S.

No, it’s not that kind of cannabis, it’s the other kind. You know, the kind you make rope from — Cannabis sativa, known as industrial hemp.

Still grown in Europe and Asia for its fiber, industrial hemp could be a non-food feedstock for biodiesel production, says Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut who led a recent study.

The plant, which the UConn press folks point out “grows like a weed” outshines some other biodiesel inputs like soy, in that it can grow in infertile soils without inputs such as water and fertilizer. It is also not a food crop, which gets growers out of the food versus fuel dilemma.

According to Parnas, hemp growers around the world could harvest hemp seeds, which are usually discarded, and make enough high quality biodiesel to run their entire operation.

Parnas and colleagues in UConn’s chemistry and plant sciences departments has received a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Energy to build a feedstock-flexible biodiesel test production site to help commercialize patented technology developed at the University. No word yet on whether it will be located in Canada.

Author: Melody Bomgardner

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