Living materials composed entirely of fungal cells offer great potential because of their functional properties, such as self-healing, spontaneous sensing of holes or defects, and their ability to self-heal.
Researchers from the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria in the UK used the fungus Ganoderma lucidum fungus to produce a membrane of branched filaments known as mycelium.
The researchers believe that with a little work, these thin films can become an alternative to leather, and they are likely to satisfy both vegetarians and fashion-conscious environmentalists.
The findings, the researchers wrote in their paper , indicate that the material produced by the fungus can survive in dry environments with low food intake and is able to self-repair with minimal external interference within a period of up to two days.
The role of chlamydial bacteria
The use of fungi in various fields such as the construction or textile industry is not new, but these traditional production processes used to kill spores (chlamydial germs), which are known for their ability to help the organism renew itself.
Here lies the importance of the research, which was published in the journal "Advanced Functional Materials", where the researchers adopted a new approach through which they developed a liquid mixture that combines both fungi and chlamydial spores, carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients necessary for the growth of the fungal membrane, and then isolated the membrane The product was dried and used as a kind of fabric. Thus, they avoid killing chlamydial spores that can grow as new threads over the patches/holes in the fungal membranes.
Here it must be noted that the current results reached by the researchers produce very thin and sensitive membranes that cannot be converted into clothes at the present time, but they can be improved in the near future by combining several layers of membranes or by adding plastics.
Environmentally friendly geometric canvas
According to a report published on the "Science Alert" website, the tests conducted on the developed mixture showed that it is indeed able to repair the holes that have been made in the fungal membrane, if it is placed in conditions similar to those in which chlamydial spores were cultivated. The researchers found that the membrane that patched the holes was strong, but it did not completely hide the location of the holes, as the researchers were able to see the impact of the holes they had made.
"The ability of this renewable fungal material to treat fine defects opens up interesting future prospects in many industries as alternatives to leather goods, such as furniture, car seats, and clothing," the report stated.
"Living materials composed entirely of fungal cells offer great potential because of their functional properties such as self-healing, spontaneous sensing of holes or defects, and their ability to self-heal," the researchers wrote.
On the other hand, the team used the "Pleurotus austriatus" mushroom – which does not contain chlamydial spores – and found that this type of fungus was not able to self-heal in the same way, which confirms that it was the chlamydial spores that gave the material its ability to regenerate.
Although the new engineering material contains living cells that are able to adapt to the environment and can be modified in various ways, wearing clothes made of fungi will take a long time in order to improve the mechanism of mycelium growth and self-healing, which currently takes several days.