Steel rebar has long been the standard for reinforcing concrete structures, but it is not a perfect solution in all corners of the world. For some, procuring steel is a challenge, and for others, steel doesn’t quite cut it. In highly corrosive environments, such as those with high salt concentrations, the corrosion of rebar reduces the lifespan of concrete structures to 40 or 50 years, effectively cutting the lifespan of bridges, buildings, roads, seawalls, walkways and more by over 60 percent. In response, researchers with the USA’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are developing a rebar made out of hemp to eliminate the corrosion factor of steel rebar.

Details of Hemp Rebar

The hemp rebar is made using a pultrusion process that melds the hemp with thermoplastics to create a solid bar; RPI researchers are still perfecting the blend of hemp to thermoplastics, but they maintain the product will have numerous benefits. The benefits of hemp rebar include:

  • Hemp rebar eliminates the problem of corrosion found with steel rebar, meaning concrete structures will last longer in highly corrosive environments.
  • Hemp is a sustainable material; it sequesters atmospheric carbon at double the rate of trees.
  • Rebar made with hemp has a significantly lower amount of embodied energy—the sum of the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building material—than the high embodied energy of glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) rebar. GFRP is often used in place of steel rebar in highly corrosive environments, meaning it has a much higher energy cost than steel rebar or hemp rebar.
  • The hemp rebar product further cuts carbon emissions by extending the lifespan of concrete structures by threefold. 
  • Hemp rebar is forecast by its developers to be cost-competitive with or cheaper than standard steel rebar.
  • Researchers foresee the possibility for an on-site pultrusion machine, which will reduce construction time as rebar can be made on-site.
  • Hemp rebar offers options to locales that might have difficulties sourcing steel rebar.
  • The hemp rebar product furthers the trend of developing and using alternative, sustainable materials in construction.

While hemp rebar is still in the development phase, it holds a high amount of promise for the construction industry.

Tucker Paving has over 25 years of experience in the asphalt and concrete paving industry, and we welcome all new innovations within the construction industry. Contact us online, or call us at (863) 299-2262 for assistance with your next asphalt paving project.