This material, dubbed “mycocrete,” is environmentally friendly and exhibits impressive strength and versatility, potentially revolutionizing the construction industry.
Mycelium: The Building Block of the Future
Mycelium, the root-like structure of fungi, forms an intricate network beneath the ground, connecting mushrooms and other fungi. Under the right conditions, mycelium can be grown and harvested to create a robust material with various applications, from vegan leather to soundproofing material. The latest application, however, is in the realm of construction, where mycelium is used to create concrete.
Mycocrete is a paste composed of mycelium spores, grains for the spores to feed on, and other ingredients such as paper powder, paper fibre clumps, water, glycerin, and xanthan gum.
This paste is injected into an oxygen-permeable knitted textile mould and placed in a warm, dark, humid environment, ideal for mycelium growth. As the spores grow into mycelium, the densely packed hyphae transform the paste into a stiff three-dimensional matrix, taking the shape of the mould.
The concrete structure is then removed from the growing environment and dried out, halting the growth before it sprouts mushrooms.
The potential applications of concrete in construction are huge. As a proof-of-concept, researchers at Newcastle University’s Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment produced a freestanding dome called BioKnit, made up of a single piece of concrete without any joints. The material was considerably more robust than other experimental mycelium-based building materials and shrank less as it dried.
The use of knitted textiles as moulds offer several advantages. These moulds are oxygen-permeable, addressing the oxygen needs of mycelium growth, a constraint that has limited the size and shape of conventional rigid moulds. Furthermore, knitted textiles can create versatile three-dimensional structures that are flexible and lightweight, with no seams and no waste.
Concrete development marks a significant step towards using mycelium and textile biohybrids within construction. Concrete offers a promising alternative as the world grapples with the environmental impact of traditional construction materials. The future of the building is green, and concrete is leading the way.
- Scientists have developed a new building material called “mycocrete,” made from the root network of fungi known as mycelium.
- Concrete is created by injecting a paste of mycelium spores and other ingredients into a knitted textile mould, which is then allowed to grow in a controlled environment.
- The resulting material is stronger and more versatile than other mycelium-based materials, offering a promising alternative for eco-friendly construction.