Mycocrete: The Fungal Sustainable Building Material of the Future
In the quest for more sustainable and eco-friendly construction practices, scientists at Newcastle University have developed an innovative material known as mycocrete. Derived from mycelium, the network of root-like structures found in mushrooms, mycocrete holds great promise for revolutionizing the way buildings are constructed.
While mushrooms themselves are a familiar sight, not many people are aware of the extensive underground network that connects them. This network is composed of hyphae, thread-like structures that make up the mycelium. Scientists have harnessed the potential of mycelium by using it as a building material in the form of mycocrete.
Mycelium has already proven its versatility in various applications. When grown and harvested under the right conditions, it can take on the characteristics of a tough material that can be used as vegan leather, soundproofing material, or even packing foam. Building upon this, the researchers at Newcastle University have developed mycocrete by combining mycelium spores with grains that serve as a food source for the spores. Additional ingredients such as paper powder, paper fiber clumps, water, glycerin, and xanthan gum are added to the mixture to enhance its properties and bulk it up.
To shape the mycocrete, a paste made from the mixture is injected into a knitted textile mold that allows oxygen to permeate. The mold is then placed in a warm, dark, and humid environment. Under these conditions, the mycelium spores begin to grow and transform the paste into a stiff three-dimensional matrix, taking the shape of the mold. In the final step, the mycocrete structure is removed from the growing environment and dried, preventing the growth of mushrooms.
As a proof-of-concept, the researchers created a freestanding dome called BioKnit entirely made of mycocrete, showcasing the material's strength and versatility. The single-piece mycocrete dome demonstrated superior mechanical performance compared to other experimental mycelium-based building materials. It exhibited increased strength and minimal shrinkage during the drying process, making it a promising candidate for sustainable construction.
Dr. Jane Scott, the lead scientist behind the project, emphasized the significance of mycocrete in construction. "The mechanical performance of the mycocrete used in combination with permanent knitted formwork is a significant result, and a step towards the use of mycelium and textile biohybrids within construction," she stated.
The development of mycocrete offers exciting possibilities for sustainable architecture. Its environmentally friendly nature, as it is derived from natural and renewable resources, makes it an attractive alternative to traditional building materials. Additionally, mycocrete has the potential to reduce carbon emissions associated with construction, contributing to the global effort to combat climate change.
The introduction of mycocrete into the construction industry aligns with the growing demand for sustainable building practices. As more architects, engineers, and developers prioritize environmental considerations, materials like mycocrete provide a viable solution for creating structures that are both functional and eco-friendly.
Looking ahead, further research and development are needed to optimize the production process and explore the full potential of mycocrete in various construction applications. Collaboration between academia, industry, and government bodies is crucial to drive innovation and ensure the successful integration of mycocrete into mainstream construction practices.
Mycocrete represents a significant breakthrough in sustainable building materials. Its unique properties, derived from mycelium, offer strength, versatility, and reduced environmental impact. As the world seeks more sustainable alternatives, mycocrete has the potential to reshape the future of construction by providing a greener and more sustainable approach to building design and construction practices.