For decades, we have been extracting materials from natural sources such as fossil fuels without considering the environmental impact. Plastic, concrete and synthetic composites are examples of such materials. But what if we could replace these with truly circular sustainable and biodegradable materials? Elise Elsacker, of the research groups Architectural Engineering and Microbiology at the VUB, investigated and discovered that fungi offer several possibilities.
There are millions of species of fungi. Elsacker therefore developed a method to select fungi based on biological, chemical and mechanical performance criteria. She studied the interaction between fungi and fibres and the material properties of these composites with different types of natural fibres, and investigated how to improve their structural properties with various additives as well as by compressing the material into panels. She also developed a new manufacturing process for the production of architectural formwork using robots and experimented with 3D printing mycelium materials, such as chairs made of mycelium.