In a review article published in Nature Sustainability, Alexander Bismarck and Mitchell Jones discuss the use of agricultural and forestry byproducts to grow fungal mycelium into leather-like materials through physical and chemical treatments. “As a result, these sheets of fungal biomass look like leather and exhibit comparable material and tactile properties,” Bismarck writes.
The authors note that animal-based and synthetic leathers from polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane have a significant environmental footprint. “This is where leather-like materials from fungi come into play, which, in general, are CO2 neutral as well as biodegradable at the end of their life span,” Bismarck adds.
Currently, production of such materials is limited, but “substantial advances in this technology and the growing number of companies that are producing fungi-biomass-based leather alternatives suggests that this new material will play a considerable role in the future of ethically and environmentally responsible fabrics,” according to authors.