Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT are working alongside researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP to produce sound absorbers derived from fungus.

Mycelium — which is the vegetative portion of fungus featuring filament-like hyphae — was combined with a vegetal substrate of straw, wood and food waste and then 3D printed.

3D printing of a sample based on mycelium. Credit: Fraunhofer UMSICHT 3D printing of a sample based on mycelium. Credit: Fraunhofer UMSICHT

Once combined, the mycelial hyphae permeate throughout the substrate, thereby forming a solid structure that is then kiln dried so as to destroy the fungus. Once the fungus is destroyed, the cell walls of the substrate open and the material demonstrates sound-absorbing properties. This, according to the researchers, makes the material appropriate for sound-proofing applications.

Currently, most sound absorbers used in locations such as offices are composed of mineral fibers or synthetic foams. Unlike the fungus-derived materials, these mineral fibers and synthetic foam materials are difficult to recycle and are generally not sustainable.

For now, the team is working to develop a number of fungus-derived sound absorber prototypes. However, the researchers suggest that material could also be used in insulation, fabric, plastic, clothing and furniture.

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