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Mushroom-derived materials could offer sustainable alternative for building

The organic biomass used for the basis of mycelium composites are often obtained from agricultural, agro-industrial, and forestry waste streams. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

A new paper published by a research team from the University of Bristol has suggested that mycelium composites could help address socio-economic and environmental challenges in Africa by acting as a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials

The research team, led by PhD student Stefania Akromah, indicated that mycelium composites are versatile materials which have gained popularity in Europe and US. With a wide range of applications such as packaging materials, insulation panels and floor tiles, the composites have been envisioned as the next-generation of self-healing and self-growing structures in construction. 

An enormous advantage of the materials is their sustainability, produced by harnessing the ability of fungi to grow by feeding on organic biomass – eliminating the need for high-end manufacturing processes. In addition, mycelium composites can be grown almost anywhere, without the need for extensive expertise or advanced equipment. 

Akromah remarked, "I am very intrigued by how such a simple technology holds so much potential for the African continent, and I am happy that my contribution could make a difference in the lives of my people.” 

The research paper suggests that mycelium composites can add value to agricultural waste, potentially offering an incentive for investment in the agricultural sector and increasing productivity. Mycelium composite production could also serve as a greener waste management route for plastics and other carbon-based waste materials too.

Neha Chandarana, lecturer in sustainable composite materials, added, “We’re seeing quite a lot of activity in mycelium composites at the moment, and I’m looking forward to the next steps of our project that will address the development of structural mycelium-based materials as well as considering the social and environmental impacts.”