Scientists Develop Strong and Versatile Mycocrete Using Knitted Textiles and Fungi

Scientists have made significant strides in developing a new composite material called mycocrete, which combines the root network of fungi, known as mycelium, with knitted textiles. This innovative biomaterial exhibits enhanced strength and versatility, offering a promising solution for eco-friendly construction.

The research team, consisting of designers, engineers, and scientists from Newcastle University’s Living Textiles Research Group, embarked on this project with the goal of reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry. While previous attempts at utilizing fungal biomaterials have faced limitations in terms of shape and growth constraints, the use of knitted molds has unlocked new possibilities.

By injecting a paste made from mycelium, combined with other biobased materials such as wool, sawdust, and cellulose, into the knitted textile framework, the researchers created a composite material known as mycocrete. This material surpasses its predecessors in strength and provides greater flexibility in shaping and forming, enabling the production of lightweight and environmentally friendly construction materials.

Dr. Jane Scott, corresponding author of the paper published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, expressed the team’s ambition to transform architectural spaces by incorporating mycelium with biobased materials. The project was carried out as part of the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, a collaboration between Newcastle and Northumbria Universities funded by Research England.

To create mycocrete, the scientists mixed mycelium spores with a substrate they could feed on, along with other supporting materials. The mixture was then packed into molds and placed in a controlled environment that facilitated mycelium growth. After reaching the desired density, the composite was dried out, providing a sustainable alternative to foam, timber, and plastic.

One of the key challenges in working with mycelium has been the need for oxygen during its growth process, which limits the size and shape of conventional rigid molds. Knitted textiles emerged as a solution due to their permeability to oxygen, allowing for the necessary air supply. The researchers found that the porous knitted fabric of the formwork not only improved oxygen availability but also resulted in less shrinkage during drying, leading to more predictable and consistent manufacturing outcomes.

To demonstrate the potential of mycocrete, the team constructed a proof-of-concept prototype called BioKnit. This complex freestanding dome, created without any joins that could introduce weak points, showcases the strength and flexibility of the mycocrete material when combined with knitted formwork.

Dr. Scott emphasized that while the current study specified specific materials and techniques, there is ample opportunity to adapt the formulation for different applications. She also acknowledged the need for new machine technology to facilitate the integration of textiles into the construction sector, particularly for biofabricated architecture.

The development of mycocrete opens up exciting possibilities for sustainable construction practices, offering a renewable and eco-friendly alternative to conventional building materials. With further advancements and refinements, mycocrete has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry by providing a greener and more versatile option for architects, engineers, and builders alike.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *