HomeNewsResearchers Explore Turning Hemp Into Lyocell

Researchers Explore Turning Hemp Into Lyocell

University of Alberta researchers are investigating how Canadian-grown hemp can be used to produce lyocell, a fibre used in textiles.

Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric commonly used as cotton substitute. A form of rayon, its primary component is cellulose. Soft to the touch, hypoallergenic and cling-free, production involves dissolving pulp and dry jet-wet spinning.

The solvent used for producing lyocell is almost fully recoverable, making it a more sustainable method of manufacturing textile fibres. In fact, lyocell (originally trademarked as Tencel), was developed by researchers looking to manufacture rayon in a way that was less harmful than the viscose method. Feedstock for lyocell is wood – commonly eucalyptus, birch and oak. But another candidate showing plenty of promise is industrial hemp.

Experimenting with cellulose from hemp grown in Canada, a team of University of Alberta researchers led by textile scientist  Patricia Dolez are attempting to determine the best parameters for producing lyocell.

“We’re still refining the process and learning new things, but since we have a proof of concept with existing wood pulp, we can proceed with experiments using hemp and other feedstocks, such as cellulose from used clothing,” said associate professor Dolez.

If successful, the benefits for Canada could be substantial.

“There is almost no fibre production in Canada, so this will help assure a domestically available supply.”

The team’s work is occurring in two phases – the first involving enhancing the process of manufacturing the cellulose filaments and the second adding other ingredients to make it more robust.

“Once we are able to apply this technology, we could have quite a strong boom for potential end users, not just for textiles, but for anything from biofuels to food science,” says Dolez.

Patricia Dolez is also an author of a paper published in 2022 exploring the opportunities and challenges of creating cellulose textiles from hemp biomass.

Industrial hemp fibre is already in wide use for non-lyocell applications; utilized in everything from stuffing furnishings to quality textiles. High quality fabrics now being made from hemp line fibre can have a texture similar to linen; a far cry from the scratchy hessian-type textiles of yesterday.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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