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Mushroom city
Image: Time Out

Could cities anon be fabricated of mushrooms?

From architecture abstracts to baptize filtration, fungi could action a added acceptable approaching for metropolises about the world

Ed Cunningham
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Ed Cunningham
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Ah, mushrooms. Some are tasty, some are baleful and some will accomplish you lick your duke and allocution to the floor. But did you apperceive that they could break a ton of problems in the world’s cities? Some scientists accept that fungi could be acclimated to apple-pie rivers, as ammunition in vehicles, and alike to body homes.

As adopted as it sounds, the abstraction of architecture being out of mushrooms is appealing able-bodied established. The technology already exists and there’s an absolute able field – ‘myco-architecture’ – committed to it. In 2014, New York’s Building of Avant-garde Art commissioned a annular belfry fabricated of 10,000 artery absolute a mix of active mushrooms and blah axis waste. Sure, the anatomy – called Hy-Fi – wasn’t accouter or decidedly airy (it’s back been taken bottomward and composted), but it did appearance the abeyant of application fungi to body stuff.

Scientists alive with this technology technically don’t use mushrooms exactly but things alleged mycelia, the root-like genitalia of a fungus. These can be developed into actual complex, absolute and able structures, authoritative it a absolutely advantageous and adjustable architecture material.

A harvest of mycelium made by Ecovative
Photograph: Ecovative

Perhaps the arch altercation for mycelia architecture is that, while accustomed architecture methods are a huge contributor to altitude change (and decay a ample bulk of accustomed resources), fungi are absolutely renewable and abundant added eco-friendly. ‘The achievability of replacing plastics and added environmentally damaging abstracts and processes with article that is absolutely natural, and absolutely compostable, will be a game-changer for the way we accomplish and absorb things,’ says Eben Bayer, co-founder of augment tech close Ecovative (yes, that’s a affair now).

Stuff fabricated out of mycelia is additionally lightweight, fire-resistant and absolutely accessible to produce. ‘I’d like to anticipate a approaching area aggregate we charge for a architecture activity is fabricated by fungi,’ says Maurizio Montalti, co-founder of Italian mycelia assembly firm Mogu. ‘Fungi accept the abeyant to alter materials like plastic, stones and so on.’ From attic and acoustic panels to artery and art pieces, Mogu is already aggravating to actuate myco-architecture into the mainstream.

Fungi could be the base for a greener and added acceptable affectionate of interplanetary habitation

The firm is additionally allotment of a cross-European collaborative activity alleged Fungal Architectures (FUNGAR), which is attractive to analysis the banned of what can be accomplished with the technology. Accumulation myco-architecture with ‘smart’ technology for the aboriginal time, FUNGAR is currently alive on a architecture fabricated out of fungi that reacts to light, temperature and air pollutants. In added words, it’s creating a building that is additionally a living, breath structure.

Mycelia are so adjustable that NASA reckons they could one day be the ideal architecture actual for houses on both the moon and Mars. Theoretically, a baby and failing abject of mycelia could be aureate off to Mars, and provided with the appropriate aliment and altitude to abound into a fully-fledged structure. Wild. The analysis is still in its ancient stages (after all, we haven’t alike stepped bottom on Mars yet), but fungi could one day be the base for a greener and added acceptable affectionate of interplanetary habitation.

Mogu srl acoustic mycelium wall panels
Photograph: ©Mogu srlMogu acoustic mycelium bank panels

And that isn’t all. In a analysis acreage alleged ‘myco-filtration’, scientists accept ample out how to use fungi to clarify abuse out of rivers. These myco-filters were aboriginal pioneered in the 1980s by American mycologist, ‘shroom whizz’ and Fungi Perfecti founder Paul Stamets. Appealing nifty, seeing as they’re basically aloof huge sandbags abounding with mycelia, copse chips and straw.

In the years since, myco-filters accept been implemented all over the world, from the River Wandle in England to Lake Erie in upstate New York. And the allowances don’t stop there. ‘Research studies accept apparent that myco-filtration calmly removes microbial bacilli such as E. coli from storm water, as able-bodied as abundant metals from attenuated bubbler baptize sources,’ says Sanele Mnkandla, an eco-toxicologist at the University of the Chargeless Accompaniment in South Africa.

There’s affluence of abeyant for myco-filtration to be implemented on a city-wide calibration as well. ‘Myco-filtration could additionally be implemented as a domiciliary wastewater analysis another in ailing resourced settings, appropriately ensuring acceptable sanitation,’ Mnkandla says. In added words, this cost-effective technology has the abeyant to break all kinds of baptize abuse problems. Appealing great, eh?

Mushroom filtration tech has the abeyant to break all kinds of baptize abuse problems

Researchers are alive on means to use mushrooms as a affectionate of biofuel, too. While this activity is beneath developed than architecture and baptize filtration, a aggregation from the Civic University of Singapore reckons that one day biofuel from augment decay could be a absolute acting for gasoline. Imagine.

Before you get agitated away, no, we are not talking about advance mushrooms into a petrol catchbasin and dispatch off on your way. Bearing ammunition out of mushrooms is a complicated action – it involves application bacteria to breach bottomward biomass, crumbling it to aftermath article alleged biobutanol, which is one of the best agitative biofuels around.

Ecovative packaging made from mycelium technology
Photograph: DelOs / MycoComposite / EcovativeEcovative packaging fabricated from mycelium technology

‘Other biofuels like ethanol, biodiesel and biohydrogen crave alterations in absolute motor engines to function,’ says Dr Prachi Nawkarkar of the International Centre for Abiogenetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi. ‘Biobutanol doesn’t crave any alterations in the agent – the alone aqueduct is its aggregate availability to alter deposit fuels.’

So biobutanol isn’t aloof renewable: it could one day be a applicable another to awful polluting, environmentally adverse deposit fuels. And on top of that, because the ammunition is beneath airy and atomic than petrol, it could additionally be easier and safer to transport.  

But the uses of mycelia amplitude far above construction, filtration and fuel. The affairs for augment technology assume boundless: it could alike be acclimated to abound clothing, healthcare products, aliment packaging and superfoods. ‘Mycelia are affectionate of like an conflicting technology that we begin in the forest,’ says Bayer. ‘It’s able of so much, and we’re alone aloof starting to accept its absolute potential.’

Now apprehend about how our cities’ absent rivers are actuality revived.

Plus: actuality are 21 amazing things cities are accomplishing to action the altitude crisis.

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