There are traditionally two ways to make leather jackets. A cow is involved, and takes years. Another synthetic fabric is included, and plastic is required. But there is a third option: thick sheets of woven fungi, ranging from sawdust to agricultural waste over a few weeks.
“It sounds a bit and smells a bit like mushrooms, yet, but it looks like a piece of old leather jacket,” said Alexander Bismarck, a materials scientist at the University of Vienna.
Over the past decade, companies in the United States, Indonesia and Korea have developed moldy leather as an ethical and environmentally sustainable replacement for both cow urine and plastic. Previously, there was not much research to back up his claims. But Dr. A study published last week in Nature Sustainability by Bismarck and his colleagues found that fungal livers tend to pile up quite well when it comes to versatility and stability.
Wearing fungal leather does not mean wearing a mushroom motorcycle jacket. Instead it is formed from a mat of mycelium, the underlying threadlide root network from which fruiting bodies pop up after a rainstorm. These mycelial mats are easily developed on just about any organic material.
In the early 1950s, inventors began to file patents around moldy mats as materials for paper, wound dressings, and a range of other products, but they were never fully caught, Michelle Jones, chief The author and material scientist of the University of Vienna said. Technology.
But over the past decade, companies such as MycoWorks and Bolt Threads have started manufacturing and selling fungal leather products.
“With leather, you are limited to the skin that an animal produces during its life, while mycelial mats can be grown to specifications, ”said MycWorks co-founder Sophia Wang.
Dr. Bismarck said the potential of custom materials is huge because different types of fungi have different properties, such as toughness, water resistance, and potentially millions of species.
Fungal leather is also probably more durable than other leather sources. The tanning process is energy intensive and produces considerable sludge waste – and plastic is required in the production of synthetic leather, which includes oil. “You are acquiring a biological organism, so that all your constructions are for you, so no real energy is required,” said Dr. Jones.
“It does not require light. And once you get this material, you can process it in comparison to the usual chemical treatments you normally do for tanning leather.”
But while fungal leather did well in the team’s durability tests, there are still some questions about its long-term toughness.
Dr. Jones said “the early industry results are significantly better durability than animal leather,” but some in the industry are a bit deceiving because they incorporate a felt polyester and make it into a composite leather. “
The fungal leather industry is still in its infancy, and is producing evidence of the concept for the mass luxury market: prototypes of bolt threaded fungal leather handbags were available for about $ 400 when they were available, a Good quality bag price.
But Dr. Jones believes that costs are likely to decline as the industry grows. “There are already large scale mushroom cultivation industries which are producing all types of mushrooms for the culinary market. Techniques for mushroom production are already in place. “
Fungal leather products may soon pop everywhere, such as mushrooms after rain. The question is whether consumers will feel the magic. After all, if you regret buying those moldy leather pants in the future, can you throw them in the yard and make them compost?
“Bismarck said,” all this has not yet been revealed.