Old Fungus That Could One Day Replace Plastic

By: | February 28th, 2023

Image by Pixabay

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. It can alter habitats and natural processes…reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change.

Now researchers have assessed the engineering possibilities with a tinder fungus that grows on the bark of rotting beech and birch trees. Researchers used the fungus ‘Fomes fomentarius’ for this new research published in the journal Science Advances. This fungus, which is usually used as a fire starter could also be used in the creation of plastics.

This innovation could help in cutting down on the heaps of plastic waste we create

Usual plastics made out of fossil fuels takes years to recycle. However, plastics made with this fungus, would not only be biodegradable but will also be reusable.

“We were really amazed with the structure because one thing that you immediately notice if you’re a biologist is that when something that beautiful starts to form, nature just doesn’t do it because of how nice it is — there must be a function there,” says Pezhman Mohammadi, one of the authors of the new paper and a senior scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland studied the internal structure of the fungus. Researchers found that the fungus has a similar structural strength to plywood or leather but at a lower weight.

F. fomentarius “has a very stiff and hard protective outer layer, has softer spongy mid-layer, and a strong and tough inner layer each (of which) could outperform a different class of man-made and natural materials,” Mohammadi explained.

Researchers foresee that in the future, it might be used to make headphones, memory-foam for shoes, or even aircraft exoskeletons.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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