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Fire-resistant mycelium sheets may be used in construction

Swatches | November 1, 2023 | By:

The fungi the researchers used, in various forms, including the mycelium sheets (rectangle in upper left, circle in middle bottom and the strips next to it). The dark brown strips on the right-hand side are sheets that the researchers burned. Image: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Melbourne, Australia, have created a fire-resistant material using mycelium that has the potential for construction applications.  

The mycelium sheets are paper-thin, similar to wallpaper, and the method to create them works without destroying the mycelium’s filament network. 

“The great thing about mycelium is that it forms a thermal protective char layer when exposed to fire or radiant heat. The longer and higher temperature at which mycelium char survives, the better its use as a fireproof material,” says Everson Kandare, associate professor of RMIT University.

According to the researchers, mycelium-based cladding is not harmful to the environment when it is burned, in contrast to composite cladding panels normally used that contain plastics, which create toxic fumes and dense smoke. 

“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,” says Kandare.

This study was published in the journal Polymer Degradation and Stability in September 2023. It was conducted in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the Australian Research Council Training Centre in Fire Retardant Materials and Safety Technologies.

The researchers are now working on reinforced mats to delay ignition and reduce flame intensity.

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