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New building material is made from fungus, rice and glass

Australian researchers developed a new, lightweight fungi composite material for construction, made with waste rice husks and glass fines.

If you paid attention to material innovation lately, you can’t have missed mycelium, the root system of mushrooms. Hailed in sectors from fashion to packaging, mycelium is growing in popularity. The new composite made with agricultural and industrial waste is designed to be used in construction, giving a new meaning to the concept of a mushroom house.

The composite uses Trametes versicolor fungus to combine rice hulls and glass fines to create lightweight but strong bricks. The material is cheaper than plastics or engineered wood, and reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfill.

Rice hulls are thin husks protecting rice grains. Rice is a staple crop for more than half the world’s population. Annually, 480 million metric tonnes are produces, 20 per cent of which is comprised of hulls.

Glass fines are discarded, small or contaminated pieces of glass. While it can be used as replacement for part of the sand in concrete, most often, it’s incinerated, like the rice hulls.

In addition to reducing waste, the fungal bricks are fire-resistant, and can be used for insulation of panelling. It’s more thermally stable than synthetic construction materials like polystyrene and particleboard, according to the researchers. The bricks burn more slowly and with less heat, while also releasing less smoke and carbon dioxide.

In addition to being fire-resistant, the fungi composite material is also not very appetising to termites, thanks to the silica content of the rice and glass.

Photos: Wikipedia / Tien Huynh

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