Can mushrooms replace plastic? Not unlikely!

Plastic may be replaced by mushrooms to make headphones or even aircraft exoskeletons.

Do you think one day a mushroom will replace plastics as we make parts for electronics, sports equipment and even vehicles? This may not be an outlandish proposition.

That is, plastics may be replaced by mushrooms to make headphones or even aircraft exoskeletons – which are wearable devices for the crew to do tasks which include heavy lifting.

Scientists have stumbled upon such an impressive mushroom, which, they think, might have the capabilities to churn out this wonderful scenario. The good thing is that the use of mushrooms, replacing plastics, will cut down non-biodegradable waste significantly. Everyone knows the ill effects of plastics as the material is non-recyclable. So if it is substituted by mushrooms, nothing like it.

Fomes fomentarius can be used to make a host of materials

That is how the focus of researchers fell on the fungus named Fomes fomentarius, according to a new study in Science Advances, a top journal. According to scientists at VTT Technical Research Centre based in Finland, Fomes fomentarius can be used to churn out a host of materials having different properties. This is exactly why researchers are conducting more studies on how we can use it sustainably.

Scientists say Fomes fomentarius has been used by mankind for years for starting fires and resembles a horse’s hoof. Hence it is also called tinder/hoof fungus. The novelty of Fomes fomentarius is that it could be possible to make materials which are ultra lightweight.

The Fomes fomentarius has three layers including a hard outer one. This is likely to be used to make material including windshields, scientists say. The soft middle layer of Fomes fomentarius is probably a good replica for leather.

Scientists, who pointed out that the third layer resembles wood, deployed various imaging techniques in order to explore all layers and their potential uses. Mushroom-based materials are the object of attention already as packaging and textile material apart from their uses in construction.

Mushroom-based products can break down on their own, unlike plastic

The good news is that the Finnish scientists have already succeeded in coming out with a prototype of headphones from the layers of the Fomes fomentarius, named mycelium.

The issue the scientists face is that the Fomes fomentarius cannot be produced at will, or in other words, cannot be harvested in huge quantities to suit our requirements as that will damage the ecosystem.

So mass production is still an area of concern and scientists are conducting further studies on how to go about it. And the scientists hope that after use, these mushroom-based products will break down on their own, unlike plastics.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »

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