A research group from the VTT Research Center in Espoo, Finland has discovered that certain types of ultra-lightweight mushrooms could be used to create new materials to replace plastics. The research focuses on the “Hoof” mushroom and shows the chemical and mechanical features that could be the foundation for a completely new class of high-performance materials.
The research findings could be used to create new sustainable materials for a variety of applications, such as impact-resistant implants, sports equipment, body armor, airplane components, electronics, or surface coatings for windshields. The mushroom is particularly interesting for advanced materials applications. The “Hoof” fungus is a common inhabitant of birch trees and has a function in releasing carbon and other nutrients from dead trees.
The structure of the mushroom can be modified to create diverse materials with distinct performances. Minimal changes in the cell structure can result in diverse materials with different chemical features that surpass most natural and man-made materials. The architectural design and biochemical principles of the fungus opens new possibilities for material engineering. This includes the manufacturing of ultra-lightweight technical structures or exploring new fabrication routes for the next generation of programmable materials with high-performance functionalities.
Furthermore, growing the mushroom material using simple ingredients could help to overcome the cost, time, mass production, and sustainability challenges of how we make and consume materials in the future.