Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environment, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT have teamed up with researchers from the Institute for Building Physics. Fraunhofer IBP to investigate the use of fungal-based materials for the production of environmentally friendly sound absorbers.
The constant chatter of employees in the office, who are always on the phone, or the loud music of a noisy neighbor is a source of stress for many people. Scientists have proven that ambient sound affects human well-being and health. Sound absorbers can improve room acoustics. Many soundproofing panels used for wall or room decoration in modern interior design are made from mineral fibers or synthetic foams. The problem is that many of these materials are environmentally unsafe. To bring a greener and more efficient alternative to the market, scientists have created a prototype sound absorber made from fungal materials.
The focus is now on plant substrates and mycelium for the development of new materials. Recall that the mycelium is a vegetative body of the fungus, which has the ability to change its structure while forming special organs that ensure reliable attachment to the substrate, nutrition, and subsequent reproduction. In fact, the mycelium is nothing more than the mycelium familiar to everyone. The mycelium is composed of a thin network of filamentous hyphae. Hypha is a filamentous formation in fungi, consisting of cells or containing many nuclei. The main function of hyphae is to absorb water and nutrients. In its natural habitat, the mycelium grows underground, covering an area of more than a square kilometer.
In an ongoing project, scientists are growing hyphae in a laboratory. The mycelium is first mixed with a plant substrate consisting of straw, wood, and food waste and then printed in the desired shape using a 3D printer. “The mycelium hyphae spread throughout the substrate and create a strong structure. After the mycelium has penetrated the fine-grained substrate, the product is oven-dried to kill the fungus. The walls of the resulting material cells are open, which means that it will absorb sound. Thanks to its open cells and 3D printed porous structure, it is ideal for sound insulation.
Sound absorbers made from fungal-based materials have several advantages – they are efficient, environmentally friendly, and help conserve resources. Moreover, the material penetrated by mycelium has a strong structure. This means that much thinner layers can be used to make sound absorbers.
The possible applications of this filamentous material are not limited to acoustics. The prospects for using mycelium as a base material for fungal skins, tissues, and plastics also look promising. In the future, materials based on the fungus can be used not only to produce sound absorbers and insulation materials but also for clothing, furniture, and housings for electrical appliances. Relevant studies are already underway.