Part of Mitlin’s research is finding ways to use plant waste as feedstocks for commercial materials. He thought he could transform waste from the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa) into a carbon nanomaterial that had similar properties to graphene and with a much smaller price tag.
Mitlin and his colleagues focused on a barklike layer of the plant called the bast, which is usually incinerated or sent to landfills during industrial hemp production. “Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose,” Mitlin says. “If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene.”
This proves once again that there are many low tech solutions to the biggest problems. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the world of Corporate Big Science, the simple solutions are often ignored because they won’t make the big profits.
You may think “the problem” is providing cheap energy to the most people, but the only problem Wall Street cares about solving is how to maximize profits.