Scientific advances in fungal networks could change home construction

Scientific advances in fungal networks could change home construction

Researchers say they have had great success with a study that uses fungal networks, also known as mycelia, to find ways to build structures with a lower negative environmental impact and less reliance on concrete.

Scientists at Newcastle University in the UK say they have made a major advance in their work using the tiny, connected strings that form underground fungal networks intertwined with tree roots.

Researchers have developed what they call mycocrete, which is described as a paste made from the network of fungal roots. They say they have been able to use these fungi as building materials by injecting them into a woven fabric framework to create a composite material that is said to be stronger and more versatile than previously used biomaterials.

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The researchers say that fungal concrete will produce a significant structural improvement when dried. Jane Scott, from Newcastle University, said: “Our ambition is to transform the look, feel and well-being of architectural spaces by using fungi in combination with biomaterials such as wool, sawdust and cellulose.”

In their research, the scientists mixed mycelium spores with other materials that the spores can consume and are able to grow, such as grains. The mixture was then placed in a warm, dark, humid place while the fungi grew and then dried.

This process produces a building material that researchers say is a natural alternative to foam, plastic or wood.

What was created is a material that is “lightweight, flexible and moldable,” says Scott.

“The main advantage of knitting technology over other textile processes is the ability to knit three-dimensional structures and shapes without seams or waste,” Scott said.

Researchers subject dried, natural building materials to strength and tensile tests. They also tested how well it could withstand compression and bending.

“The mechanical performance of mycelium concrete used with permanent woven formwork is an important result, and a step toward the use of mycelium and textile biohybrids in construction,” Scott said.

The researchers say new “bio” building materials could require new machinery technology in order to move these types of textiles into use in everyday construction.

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