Kumba Bonga, the University of Genoa and the Italian Institute of Technology
Fabricating Mycelium-Agrowaste 3D Composite Materials for Use in Building Construction Insulation
Written by Richard Wu
Over a third of worldwide carbon emissions today are due to the construction industry. Recent efforts to make construction materials more sustainable have focused on renewable materials such as biomaterials for environmentally friendly buildings.
Kumba Bonga, from the University of Genoa and the Italian Institute of Technology, has been investigating the applications of fungal mycelia as a material for building insulation. Mycelium, which is a network of fungal threads, has many desirable properties as a construction material, as it can be grown cheaply from agricultural waste, is biodegradable, and does not leach toxic chemicals into the environment.
Bonga and colleagues have developed a process to grow the fungus Pleurotus ostreatus from agricultural waste such as coffee silverskin pellets, shape the fungal mycelium structure as it grows, and oven-dry to stop fungal growth. The resulting mycelium material exhibited similar insulative properties to conventional building insulation materials and was also found to be water-repellent.
This work shows that fungal mycelium-based materials, which are inexpensive yet sustainable, could make a great alternative for building insulation. As it turns out, mushrooms can be useful for more than just food!