Scientists from Australia have created a low-carbon, fire-resistant building material by combining agricultural and industrial waste and binding it with Trametes versicolor, which is a fungus.
Cheaper than the synthetic plastics and engineered wood commonly used in construction, the fungus material will ultimately cut down on the waste that inevitably makes its way into landfills.
Made from rice hulls and discarded glass particles, the material is baked into lightweight bricks that can be manipulated into just about any shape imaginable. The process of producing such bricks is both low energy and zero carbon because they incorporate the waste left behind in the processing of rice, as well as tonnes of discarded glass.
When measured against traditional synthetic construction materials like particleboard, which is derived from petroleum or natural gas, and polystyrene, the fungal bricks burn slower and emit less heat, smoke and CO2, making them well-suited for fire-resistant insulation in construction.
Additionally, the material in the bricks wards off termites due to the silica found in both the rice and glass.
“The findings of this study show that mycelium composites are a very economical alternative to highly flammable petroleum-derived and natural gas-derived synthetic polymers and engineering words for applications including insulation, furniture and paneling,” wrote the researchers in their paper in the journal Fire and Materials.