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Meet Marijuana’s Cousin, Hemp

Posted on October 2, 2000

You won’t get high on marijuana’s cousin, hemp, but the Johnson Controls auto unit got pretty excited about its natural fibers, which are both inexpensive and constantly renewed with each year’s crop.

Hemp, used in rope, paper, and textiles, is now part of the Eco-Cor biocomposite plastic that JCI is using as a substrate in door trim panels for DaimlerChrysler AG’s 2001 Sebring convertible. The panels are made of a blend of 50% polypropylene, 25% hemp and 25% kenaf. It is one of a growing number of substrates made with biocomposites, a mix that also features natural fibers such as flax and jute, developed to improve strength and decrease weight in structural plastic parts.

Because of hemp’s cousin, marijuana, you won’t find many fields of hemp in the USA, so most of JCI’s hemp comes from Canada.

According to Rob Springer, lead process engineer for JCI, “ Industrial hemp offers increased strength in a plastic blend, and it has a longer fiber than kenaf, which helps the panel stand up to deep cavities in a mold, such as an armrest in a door panel.”

Springer also noted that the blend in the plastic door panels is formulated for fire resistance. “It’s self-extinguishing” he said.

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