Mushroom motorcycle jacket will never go out of style

There are two traditional ways to make a leather jacket. One includes a cow, and it takes years. Another material that includes synthetic fabric and requires plastic. But there is a third option: thick sheets of woven mushrooms, which grow over two weeks on anything from sawdust to agricultural waste.

Alexander Bismarck, a materials scientist at the University of Vienna said, “It feels a little bit and smells a bit like mushrooms, but it looks like a piece of an old leather jacket.”

Over the past decade, companies in the United States, Indonesia, and Korea have promoted fungal leather as an ethical and environmentally sustainable alternative to both cowhide and plastic. Previously, there wasn’t much research to support their claims. But a study published by Dr. Bismarck and colleagues Last week at Nature Sustainability He finds that pasty leather piles up well when it comes to versatility and sustainability.

Wearing fungus leather does not mean wearing a motorcycle jacket made of mushrooms. Instead, it’s made from mats of fungi, the basic, thread-like root networks that sprout fruit bodies after rain. These fungal mats grow easily on almost any organic matter.

Beginning in the 1950s, inventors began filing patents based on fungal mats as materials for paper, wound dressings, and a host of other products, but they were not fully caught, said Mitchell Jones, lead author and materials scientist from the University of Vienna in Technology.

But in the past decade, companies like MycoWorks and Bolt Thread have started manufacturing and selling fungus leather products.

Sophia Wang, co-founder of MycoWorks, said: “For leather, you are restricted to the skin the animal produces over its life, while the fungal mats can be grown according to specifications.

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Dr. Bismarck said the potential for custom materials is huge because different types of fungi have different properties, such as hardness and water resistance, and there are likely to be millions of species to choose from.

Fungal leather is also likely to be more sustainable than other leather sources. The tanning process is energy-intensive and produces Little sludge waste The production of artificial leather requires the plastic that the oil enters. “You get a biotic to do all of your manufacturing processes for you, so there’s no real need for energy,” said Dr. Jones.

“It doesn’t require lighting. Once you have this material, you can treat it with very simple chemical treatments compared to what you usually do to tanning leather.”

But while the fungal leather performed well in the team’s durability tests, there were still some questions about its long-term durability.

“Preliminary results from the industry indicate that the durability is very good compared to animal skins,” said Dr. Jones, “but some industry cheats a little because they contain filled polyester and make it made of synthetic leather.”

The faux leather industry is still in its infancy, largely producing conceptual evidence for the luxury market: prototypes from The fungal leather bolt thread handbag fetched around $ 400 When it was available at a similar price to a premium quality leather bag.

But Dr. Jones believes that costs are likely to decrease as the industry grows. There are actually huge mushroom-growing industries that produce all kinds of mushrooms for the culinary market. The technology for mass production of mushrooms is already in place. “

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Fungal leather products may soon appear everywhere, like mushrooms after rain. The question is whether consumers will feel the magic. After all, if you regret those fungal leather pants you buy in the future, can you throw them out in your yard and let them become composting?

“That’s all that hasn’t been explored yet,” said Dr. Bismarck.

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