Hemp Reinforced Polypropylene Composites For the Automotive Industry

Heartland Industries produces hemp that’s used as an additive in plastic. Whereas most plastic fillers in automotive applications consist of talc or fiberglass, hemp is a superior alternative because it’s stronger, lighter, less expensive, and more sustainable (compared to the toxic fillers it replaces). Using hemp as an additive in plastics allows automotive companies to easily integrate industrial hemp into existing products, rather than relying on mined and synthetic materials. Polypropylene in automotive parts is a particularly good opportunity to reduce costs with hemp biocomposites, as described below.

 

The automotive industry uses plastics in most of its applications. It utilizes polypropylene instead of metals due to its lightweight nature. Bumpers, battery cases and trays, drink holders, instrument panels, and door trims are some parts of cars that are made of polypropylene.

 

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic that can be molded into different shapes to produce a wide variety of products. Performance benefits like increased fuel efficiency, payload capacity, and acceleration are just a few of the major advantages of using polypropylene in automotive applications. The weight of metals is ten times the weight of plastics which results in large consumption of fuel during operations. Other significant characteristics of plastics include durability, corrosion resistance, and thermal resistance.

Applications of Plastics in Other Industries

 

The aerospace industry also favors the use of plastics because of the high savings in fuel costs. Some parts of an aircraft that are made of plastics are tray tables, armrests, windows, canopies, and valve components. Moreover, plastic’s good thermal resistance provides adequate protection for the instrument panels of aircraft. On the other hand, the marine and packaging sectors benefit from the use of plastics because of their durability and ability to withstand drastic conditions.

 

Disadvantages of Using Traditional Fillers

 

The addition of fillers to polypropylene composite adds volume and improves its chemical and mechanical properties. Listed below are the commonly used fillers along with their specific purpose of use:


  1. Glass fiber – It enhances mechanical properties.
  2. Talc – It serves as a thickening agent and volume filler.
  3. Calcium carbonate – It modifies thermal properties.

These fillers have their downsides since they are obtained from mining, an energy-intensive process. Furthermore, energy used in mining comes from the burning of fossil fuels which accounts for 4% to 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, talc and calcium carbonate contains asbestos and crystalline silica, respectively, which are both carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure to them is detrimental to human health.

 

Advantages of Using Hemp as a Substitute to Traditional Fillers


  1. Hemp is a carbon-negative material. For every 1 ton of hemp, there are 1.62 tons of carbon dioxide sequestered. The absorption of carbon dioxide during its growth is greater than the carbon dioxide emissions by the equipment used for its processing and transportation.
  2. Hemp is strong. Hemp is the strongest natural fiber on earth, proving stronger than bamboo and kenaf fibers while maintaining flexibility.
  3. Hemp is lightweight. Hemp weighs 80% less than glass fiber, talc, and calcium carbonate. Therefore, it reduces the polypropylene composite weight by 20% to 60%. In one study, it was found that biocomposites made of hemp and polypropylene have a density of 1.4 g/cm3, whereas composite of glass fiber and polypropylene has a density of 2.5 g/cm3. Thus, the total weight of the polypropylene composite is reduced by 44% for the same volume. Due to the lower weight of hemp and polypropylene biocomposite, increased fuel efficiency could be attained in automotive applications. As a result, there would be more savings in fuel costs.
  4. Hemp is low-cost. Farming scale has improved by an order of magnitude over the last 50 years, making planting and harvesting industrial hemp one of the most cost-efficient input materials. In addition to farming practices, the energy required for the production of hemp is significantly lower compared with mining. Thus, it is cheaper.

 

As the world’s problem of climate change remains unresolved, continuous efforts are being made to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions. Various industries take their innovative steps while considering environmental corporate social responsibility. One example is their move to use hemp as fillers of polypropylene composites instead of traditional ones. This shift to a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative is a huge advancement for the betterment of society.

 

Join us as we build a world out of hemp.

 

Heartland Team

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