Fungal-based building materialsCopyright: Chair of Structures and Structural Design
The research project „LIMy-Brick“ (Lightweight Insulating Mycelium Brick) aims at developing a sustainable system of building components on the basis of fungal mycelium and is being conducted at the Chair of Structures and Structural Design since 2015. Research funding is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Science.
Mycelium, a subsurface system of fungal hyphae, has extraordinary characteristics that can be utilized to produce sustainable and energy-efficient building material. Mycelium as a building material is always a composite material comprised of the hyphae of fungi and a substrate (e.g. coffee grounds, wood chips, agricultural waste), which serves as the nutrition for the fungi and is being subsequently digested by it. Within this process, the mycelium acts as a matrix and stabilizes the substrate. Due to its fast and virtually limitless growth capacity as well as its favorable insulating properties, fungal mycelium has gained attention within the scientific community. Its low to moderate strength however, has limited applications to insulating purposes.
At the Chair of Structures and Structural Design, the project „LIMy-Brick“ and its successor “MycoMatrix” aim at laying the technical foundations for applications of fungal mycelium in load bearing building components. In a cooperation with the Institute of Biology of the RWTH Aachen University, the mycelium-substrate-composites are being optimized toward a usable stability. Possible field of applications for mycelium boards are furniture construction, interior fittings, sandwich elements and mycelium bricks. Mycelium building components are biodegradable and can be produced near energy neutral. Compression strength and insulating properties of the building material can be adjusted through the choice and mixture of the substrate and the mycelium is able to grow into almost any shape.
A first prototype of a mycelium brick on a wood chip substratum has been produced in the spring of 2017. Future research focuses on the further optimization of the material properties and the development of new fields of application in cooperation with industry partners.