Who knew that fungi could do us good in many ways? Well, scientists did and they have another idea regarding these little creatures.
It seems that soon fungi will have a bigger impact on the leather industry, and they may even replace the leathers made of animals.
According to a recent research paper by the University of Vienna, Imperial College London, and RMIT University in Australia, leather created out of fungi could just exceed the regular leather and become a sustainable and cost-effective replacement.
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"Fungi-derived leather substitutes are an emerging class of ethically and environmentally responsible fabrics that are increasingly meeting consumer aesthetic and functional expectations and winning favor as an alternative to bovine and synthetic leathers," the research paper wrote.
Processed leathers raise a couple of issues concerning humans. As most animal lovers would guess, it both tackles an ethical question and our health. Just ending animals' lives for a leather jacket, just as in the case of eating, appears cruel for many. Secondly, it is not an easy process that releases hazardous chemicals and livestock farming also does its best to cause gas emissions.
Yes, fungi cause none, as co-author of the study, Professor Alexander Bismarck, from the University of Vienna and Imperial’s Department of Chemical Engineering, indicated.
“Fungi-derived leather brings none of these issues to the table, and therefore has considerable potential to be one of the best leather substitutes in terms of sustainability and cost,” he added.
Seems like their only potential is not protecting us from space radiation.
How do they do it?
The production process is planned to draw on sawdust along with fungi. Sawdust, being the main feedstock, will serve as a base to grow mycelium on, and later turns into a sheet.
After the fungal sheet is harvested in a couple of weeks, it goes through a pressing process and provides a similar feel to animal leather in turn. What's more, the output will comprise biodegradable elements and glucan biopolymers.
Still, the challenging part about the production, according to the paper, is keeping the mycelium quality at the same level, along with the thickness and color.
As the fungi-leather market grows, it is always promising to see alternatives are offered in the industry. In the end, who wouldn't be happy to see fungi, and perhaps some cacti lead the way?