Fungi Filament for Sustainable Soundproofing

Published on February 2, 2021 by Amelia H.
Mycelium Credit: Rob Hille

Researchers have developed sustainable soundproofing using the fungus-based material, mycelium, and 3D printing technologies. The majority of modern soundproofing panels are made of synthetic foams or mineral fibers. These are neither sustainable nor recyclable. Mycelium, however, is effective, sustainable and will help to conserve resources. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) have discovered a way to adapt mycelium and 3D printers in order to additively manufacture new eco-friendly sound absorbers.

Mycelium is the vegetative body for fungus, the equivalent of a plant’s root system. It contains a network of thread-like tubular filaments called hyphae. In order to turn this into a material which can be 3D printed the it must first be mixed with a vegetal substrate such as straw, wood or waste from food production. This mixture is then 3D printed into the desired shape. The mycelium permeates the substrate, fusing with it. The part is then put in a kiln to kill the fungus. The final structure is solid, yet porous, and when printed in thin layers is an effective sound absorber.

Mycelium being used to create soundproofing. (Credit: Fraunhofer UMSICHT)

While also creating strong and lightweight parts, the material is eco-friendly, biodegradable and exists in abundance. When in its natural habitat, Mycelium can span more than a kilometer underground. It also acts as a carbon storage facility, able to double an environment’s natural carbon-capture rate. While several 3D printing materials boast a low to zero carbon footprints, mycelium’s is negative.

3D printing has also facilitated several further potential applications for mycelium, including a pair of high heels. Notably, mycelium is being looked at for potential use in the construction of Mars habitats. This is largely because the material possesses two exceptional qualities. First, mycelium has the potential to grow incredibly quickly and in a wide range of environments, meaning that very little would have to be transported and the effort put into its cultivation would be minimal. Secondly, mycelium is able to absorb radiation. While the radiation on Mars is low enough to be withstood by humans, prolonged exposure can cause radiation sickness and can increase the risk of cancer and genetic diseases. Building habitats out of mycelium would help to combat these risks by reducing the amount of exposure.

Employees at Fraunhofer UMSICHT are currently manufacturing a range of prototypes for the sound absorber, which will go on to be tested at Fraunhofer IBP. You can find out more about the project HERE. What do you think about 3D printing with mycelium? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox!

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