This new fire-proof material is made from fungus and could save your home

The new mycelium material is not harmful to the environment when burned.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The fungus sheets produced by RMIT researchers.jpg
The fungus sheets produced by RMIT researchers.


RMIT scientists have used mycelium fungus as the foundation for sustainable fireproofing materials by chemically manipulating its composition to harness its fire-retardant qualities.

Better yet, the material can be grown from renewable organic waste.

This is according to a press release by the institution published last month.

“Fungi are usually found in a composite form mixed with residual feed material, but we found a way to grow pure mycelium sheets that can be layered and engineered into different uses – from flat panels for the building industry to a leather-like material for the fashion industry,” said Associate Professor Tien Huynh, an expert in biotechnology and mycology.

Mycelium sheets

The researchers have conceived of a novel method of creating mycelium sheets that maintain the fungus’ filament network by using different growth conditions and chemicals.

The hope of the new work is to engineer bio-derived, fire-retardant cladding for buildings to prevent fires from spreading quickly and causing untold damage.

“The great thing about mycelium is that it forms a thermal protective char layer when exposed to fire or radiant heat. The longer and the higher temperature at which mycelium char survives, the better its use as a fireproof material,” said associate professor Everson Kandare, an expert in the flammability and thermal properties of biomaterials and co-author of the paper.

What makes mycelium so attractive is that cladding produced from the material can be derived from renewable organic waste. In addition, it is not harmful to the environment when burned, he explained.

This is very different from conventional composite cladding panels that contain plastics that produce toxic fumes and heavy smoke when they burn.

“Bromide, iodide, phosphorus and nitrogen-containing fire retardants are effective, but have adverse health and environmental effects. They pose health and environmental concerns, as carcinogens and neurotoxins that can escape and persist in the environment cause harm to plant and animal life,” said Kandare.

“Bioderived mycelium produces naturally occurring water and carbon dioxide.”

Eco-friendly building material

Now the researchers hope to develop improved and eco-friendly cladding for buildings from the new processes.

“Plastics are quick and easy to produce, whereas fungi is slow to grow and relatively harder to produce at scale,” said in the statement Huynh.

“However, we’ve been approached by the mushroom industry about using their fungal-incorporated waste products. Collaborating with the mushroom industry would remove the need for new farms while producing products that meet fire safety needs in a sustainable way.”