Protecting cellulose-based leather with a fungi coating
Dutch designer Emma van der Leest developed a fungi-based coating that can be used to make plant-based leather water-repellent and more durable.
Plant-based leather offers a vegan alternative to animal leather. Unfortunately, many of these leather alternatives rely on a PU coating to be water-repellent. In her research, Van der Leest used cellulose-based bioleather that is not water-repellent and the colour is unstable, leading to premature degradation.
To counter this and make bioleather a viable alternative to animal leather, Van der Leest, in collaboration with Radboud UMC Hospital, developed a water-repellent fungi-based coating to improve the bioleather. Fungi can be used to add various properties to biomaterials, including colour and odour, but also water-repellancy.
Called Fungkee Supercoating, the fungal coating is 100% natural and chemical free. It doesn’t just cover the material, but wraps the cellular structure. The coating is based on a human pathogenic fungus.
Currently, the coating is a proof-of-concept, but Van der Leest believes an actual product can be developed in the next five to ten years. The coating was made in collaboration with Paul Verweij and Sybren de Hoog from the Center of Expertise in Mycology, Radboud UMC/Canisius Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis.
Photos: Emma van der Leest / Jeroen van der Wiel