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article imageFungi used to create 'leather-like' materials

By Tim Sandle     Sep 9, 2020 in Science
A new biofabrication technology, using fungi, can succeed in developing a leather-type material. This includes the upcycling of low-cost agricultural and forestry by-products.
Scientists based at the University of Vienna have succeeded in producing leather-like materials from fungi. The motivation for the work was to develop something durable and strong like leather, but also to create a material that is ethical (as with not being an animal product) and environmentally friendly, in terms of the manufacturing process.
Concerns with the production of leather include deforestation for grazing. In addition, there are greenhouse gas emissions, use of hazardous chemicals for the tanning process. With synthetic leather materials these also carry environmental concerns. For example, creating materials from plastics like polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane use chemicals derived from fossil fuels.
The creation of the leather-like material from fungi fungi involved upcycling low-cost agricultural and forestry by-products (primarily sawdust). The sawdust served as the feedstock for the growth of mycelium (the elongated vegetative biomass of fungi). After a few weeks, the enlarged fungal biomass s suitable for harvesting.
The fungi used in the new process are the white button mushroom Agaricus bisporus and bracket fungus Daedaleopsis confragosa.
The collected biomass is then chemically treated by a process called cross-linking, based on bioprinting and bioassembly. This develops the biomass into a material with the same tactile properties as leather. It is hoped that the produced material will be suitable for vegans.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Sustainability. The research paper is titled "Leather-like material biofabrication using fungi."
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