July 20, 2024

Innovative Fire-Retardant Material Made from Fungi Holds Potential for Building Insulation

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a sustainable and fire-retardant material using chemically manipulated mycelium, the intricate network of filaments found in fungi. The team created pure mycelium sheets that can be layered and engineered for various purposes, such as building panels and leather-like materials for the fashion industry. The material, which has been developed based on previous research into mycelium’s fire-retardant properties, can be layered over flammable substrates to protect them from high temperatures and fire. When exposed to fire, the mycelium decomposes into a char, creating a non-toxic and effective thermal barrier. Unlike traditional panels, this mycelium-based material is plastic-free and does not emit toxic fumes when in contact with flames.

The researchers emphasize the environmentally friendly and safe nature of the material. It can potentially be produced from renewable organic waste, making it a sustainable solution. Additionally, mycelium naturally produces water and carbon dioxide, further contributing to its environmentally friendly qualities. In contrast, traditional fire retardants containing bromide, iodide, phosphorus, and nitrogen have adverse health and environmental effects as they can escape and persist in the environment, causing harm to plant and animal life.

While the slow growth rate of fungi poses challenges for scalability compared to plastic production, it also presents opportunities. The researchers have been approached by the mushroom industry to explore the use of fungal-incorporated waste products in their material. This collaboration would eliminate the need for new farms while producing fire-resistant products in a sustainable manner. Currently, the team is investigating bioengineered fungal mats that can enhance fire-safety ratings in buildings by reducing flame intensity.

The potential for mycelium-based materials extends beyond building insulation. Due to its versatility, it can be engineered into various forms for different applications, such as fashion and design. The development of a leather-like material from mycelium showcases its potential in the fashion industry, providing sustainable alternatives to animal-based materials.

In conclusion, the creation of a fire-retardant material using mycelium holds promise for sustainable building insulation and other applications. With its ability to decompose into a char and provide thermal protection, the material offers a non-toxic and efficient solution for fire safety. Furthermore, its environmentally friendly nature and potential use of organic waste make it a sustainable alternative to traditional fire retardants. Ongoing research aims to enhance its fire-safety properties further and explore collaborations with the mushroom industry to ensure scalability and reduce environmental impact. Overall, mycelium-based materials offer a promising avenue for innovation in the fields of architecture, fashion, and beyond.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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