In a groundbreaking development, researchers have discovered a sustainable method to fireproof buildings using fungi.
The team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has developed mycelium panels, a network of fungal strands that can thrive on organic waste and in darkness.
The mycelium sheets are created by chemically manipulating the composition of the fungi to enhance their fire-retardant properties.
The researchers have devised a novel method to grow pure mycelium sheets that can be layered and engineered for different uses.
The process involves using different growth conditions and chemicals to create thin, uniform, and fire-resistant material. These sheets are paper-thin, like wallpaper, and made without pulverising the mycelium’s filament network.
The Potential of Mycelium in Construction
The primary focus of the researchers is to create bio-derived, fire-retardant cladding for buildings. The aim is to prevent tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire, accelerated by a highly combustible cladding component.
Mycelium has shown strong potential as a fireproofing material. It forms a thermal protective char layer when exposed to fire or radiant heat. The longer and the higher temperature at which mycelium char survives, the better its use as a fireproof material.
Unlike composite cladding panels that usually contain plastics and produce toxic fumes and heavy smoke when they burn, mycelium-based cladding is not harmful to the environment when burned. It can be produced from renewable organic waste, making it a sustainable solution for the construction industry.
The Future of Fireproofing with Fungi
While fungi are slow to grow and relatively harder to produce at scale than plastics, the mushroom industry has approached researchers about using their fungal-incorporated waste products. This collaboration would eliminate the need for new farms while producing products that meet fire safety needs sustainably.
The researchers are now looking to create fungal mats reinforced by engineering fibres to delay ignition, reduce the flame intensity, and improve their fire safety ranking. This research could eventually lead to improved and eco-friendly building cladding, marking a significant step forward in sustainable construction and fire safety.
- Researchers have developed a sustainable method to fireproof buildings using mycelium, a type of fungi.
- The mycelium sheets are chemically manipulated to enhance their fire-retardant properties.
- The researchers aim to create bio-derived, fire-retardant cladding for buildings.
- Unlike traditional materials, mycelium-based cladding does not harm the environment when burned.
- The researchers are now looking to create fungal mats reinforced by engineering fibres to improve their fire safety ranking.