May: mycelial composites | News and Features

Scientists from the University of Bristol have discovered that mycelial composites, bio-based materials made from fungi and agricultural residues, could have a greater impact on the environment than conventional fossil fuel-based materials due to the large amount of electricity involved in their production.

In the findings, published today in Scientific reportsthe team shows that this is further exacerbated in countries like South Africa, where fossil fuels are the main source of electricity. This is not helped by the shorter lifespan of mycelial composites and the need for multiple replacements over the duration of long-term applications, increasing their overall impact on the environment.

Despite this discovery, they also concluded that the overall potential damage to the environment caused by this technology can be reduced by integrating alternative energy sources such as fuelwood.

Lead author Stefania Akromah explains: “Mycelium composites are considered a sustainable alternative to traditional materials derived from fossil fuels.

“However, the sustainability of these materials depends on several location-specific factors, such as resource availability, economic structures, cultural practices and regulations.

“Our main focus was to determine whether the production of mycelium composites is sustainable in Africa and to identify which production processes have the most potential to damage the environment.”

Now the team plans to evaluate the environmental impact of mycelium composite technology under different scenarios aimed at reducing the overall footprint, to conduct uncertainty analyzes to verify the accuracy of the current results, and to compare the footprint of mycelium composites with other emerging green materials that are or could be used in Africa. In addition, they also want to investigate the economic feasibility and social implications of the technology to provide a comprehensive evaluation of its sustainability.

Stefania continued: “Africa faces increased vulnerability to the impacts of climate change due to limited financial resources, making it critical to mitigate these impacts as much as possible.

“This study provides valuable insights that can be used to proactively address the potential impact of this technology on the environment and human health.

“It was interesting to discover that even a technology that is generally perceived as sustainable can sometimes have a greater impact on the environment than conventional fossil fuel-based materials. This highlights the importance of life cycle assessment studies and the need to carefully consider all factors, including energy sources and lifespan, when evaluating new materials.”

“Stefania’s work just goes to show that when conducting life cycle assessments, it is important that geographical considerations and cultural practices are taken into account when calculating sustainability.

“The right decisions can then be made to ensure production has the lowest possible impact while contributing to local economies and African livelihoods,” says Professor Steve Eichhorn, Director of the Center for Doctoral Training in Composites , Science and Manufacturing. CoSEM) – from which this study was funded.

The research was conducted using a life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology according to ISO 14040 and 14044 standards for evaluating the environmental impact of materials or processes.

‘Potential Environmental Impact of Mycelium Composites on African Communities’ by Stefania Akromah, Neha Chandarana, Jemma L. Rowlandson and Stephen J. Eichhorn in Scientific reports.

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