Mechanical, physical and chemical characterisation of mycelium-based composites with different types of lignocellulosic substrates

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The current physical goods economy produces materials by extracting finite valuable resources without taking their end of the life and environmental impact into account. Mycelium-based materials offer an alternative fabrication paradigm, based on the growth of materials rather than on extraction. Agricultural residue fibres are inoculated with fungal mycelium, which form an interwoven three-dimensional filamentous network binding the feedstock into a lightweight material. The mycelium-based material is heat-killed after the growing process. In this paper, we investigate the production process, the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of mycelium-based composites made with different types of lignocellulosic reinforcement fibres combined with a white rot fungus, Trametes versicolor. This is the first study reporting the dry density, the Young's modulus, the compressive stiffness, the stress-strain curves, the thermal conductivity, the water absorption rate and a FTIR analyse of mycelium-based composites by making use of a fully disclosed protocol with T. versicolor and five different type of fibres (hemp, flax, flax waste, softwood, straw) and fibre processings (loose, chopped, dust, pre-compressed and tow). The thermal conductivity and water absorption coefficient of the mycelium composites with flax, hemp, and straw have an overall good insulation behaviour in all the aspects compared to conventional materials such as rock wool, glass wool and extruded polystyrene. The conducted tests reveal that the mechanical performance of the mycelium-based composites depends more on the fibre processing (loose, chopped, pre-compressed, and tow), and size than on the chemical composition of the fibres. These experimental results show that mycelium-composites can fulfil the requirements of thermal insulation and have the potential to replace fosile-based composites. The methology used to evaluate the suitability and selection of organic waste-streams proved to be effective for the mycelium-material manufacturing applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213954
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2019


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