In order to meet the given requirements of a standardized cannabis production in Germany, German industry and research organizations need to network with experienced partners in this field to close existing knowledge gaps.
Through innovative research projects, we are helping to lay the foundations for a dedicated cannabis production chain in Germany.
MULTIPURPOSE PLANT HEMP: EXTRACTION OF BIOMASS, LIGNIN AND PLATFORM CHEMICALS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF BIOPOLYMER MATERIALS (MULTIHEMP)
Hemp is a prime example of a "multipurpose plant" and is ideally suited for a sustainable circular economy in the context of the bioeconomy due to its versatility and the possibility of using the whole plant (grains, leaves, flowers, stems, roots). Hemp has been cultivated for centuries in Germany for fibre, food, oil production and as a medicinal product. Interest in hemp for a range of industrial applications has increased in recent years due to the superior quality of its fibres in a number of industrial applications. In addition to fibre, hemp also provides high quality seeds and phytocannabinoids with developing markets for oils and vegetable proteins. These processes generate a number of by-products that have not been recycled to date.
Aim of MULTIHEMP is to use hemp and by-products of hemp fibre production as feedstock in the context of a biorefinery. The project goal includes an agricultural biorefinery that converts locally produced biomass into platform chemicals, lignin, cellulose, phytocannabinoids, oils and proteins, demonstrating the full-scale use of the hemp plant. Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), furfural (Fu) and lignin can be produced from the lignocellulose-rich material obtained. HMF can be used to produce polyesters such as PEF (polyethylene dicarboxyfuranoate) for packaging or fibres. HMF itself, like Fu, can serve as a substitute for formaldehyde in resins, e.g. for chipboard, polyamides such as nylon 6 and nylon 6,6, or as an additive in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Lignin can be added to resins as a filler material, or can be split into phenols to become components of resins themselves. Another application is the conversion into high-quality carbon materials for electrodes and supercapacitors. The processes for the processing and extraction of cellulose lignin using microwave technology and the extraction of platform chemicals using biorefinery, including the necessary analytical methods, are to be developed and optimised. The platform chemicals obtained will be used to develop and produce thermoplastic biopolymers, which will be further developed into fibre-reinforced/fibre-based materials. From these biopolymer materials, new biobased, degradable materials can be obtained for various end applications. For this purpose, the processing data and parameters for the production of the new materials are recorded and used for process optimisation. The industrial upscaling of the developed methods and materials can be demonstrated by the participating companies as well as by the pilot plant available at the University of Hohenheim. It is expected that the developed materials will show a significantly improved ecological footprint compared to conventional materials, as regional raw materials and by-products from hemp are obtained and used.