Breaking It Down
Decortication is the mechanical process that separates the hemp stalk into its marketable components, namely bast fiber and hurd. This process involves the removal of the outer bark, exposing the inner fibers and woody core—or cortex—of the plant. Decortication is a catch-all term for separating the hemp stalk, and ranges from centuries-old techniqued like scutching to mechanical processes like hammer mills and roller crushers. The result is two raw materials with a wide range of applications.
Although several commercial-scale decortication facilities exist across the United States, none are currently located on the East Coast. With Pennsylvania stands out as the ideal location for such facilities.
Separating the Bast from the Hurd
Found in the outer layer of the hemp stalk, bast fibers are long, flexible strands prized for their strength and durability. These fibers are the backbone of numerous sustainable products, including textiles, rope, and biocomposites. Hemp bast fiber is amongst the strongest natural fibers on Earth. Long fibers can be manufactured into woven products like clothing while short fibers are manufactured into non-woven goods like insulation, disposable wipes, car parts and more.
The inner woody core of the hemp stalk is known as hurd or shiv. With unique properties, hurd serves as a foundational material in the production of eco-friendly construction materials such as hempcrete and composite timber. Hurd is very absorbent and is popular as eco-friendly animal bedding and landscape mulch, and can be used as an industrial absorbent. Hemp hurd can also be used in making pulp for paper products.
Provided under a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
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