Wow! Scientists Make Self-Repairing Material From Fungi


| LAST UPDATE 04/26/2023

By Amie Alfaro
Mushrooms Fungi Nature Outdoors
Ashish Raj via Pexels

Scientists have created a “self-healing leather” from mushrooms in a strange and amazing discovery. While there is still much research to be done, we may not be far from the days of having a vegan leather jacket that can repair itself if ripped. To learn more about this fascinating finding, continue reading.

Mycelium leather is a sustainable leather alternative and has already made its way into the vegan leather market. According to Britannica, mycelium, or its plural mycelia, is “the mass of branched, tubular filaments (hyphae) of fungi.” It has quite a range, from being “microscopic in size or developed into visible structures.” These extraordinary mushrooms have been emerging as a sustainable material for leather. MycoWorks is a company that specializes in using mycelium to create leathers made from mycelium that have the same look and feel as the real thing. While this concept is not entirely new, researcher Elise Elsacker and her team took it one step further.

Fungi Mycelium Outdoors Mushroom
Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Per Science News, Elsacker and her team wondered if conditions were changed, would the mycelium be able to regrow if it were damaged? This is something that it can do in the wild. Elsacker began her experiment by growing mycelium “in a soup rich in proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients.” Then, a skin formed on the surface of the liquid. The team removed said skin and used that to make a leather material. They were careful to use temperatures and chemicals that were delicate enough to keep the fungus operational yet strong enough to form the leather material. Using this process, they were able to leave the chlamydospores intact, which is the part that initiates the growth process. Now they had to test if this new leather could self-repair. So, they punched holes into it, and then they poured their soup over the punctured areas. Eventually, the material completely grew back. The punctured areas were just as strong as the original material. However, the repairs were visible. Even though it may not be perfect, this is an incredible step in sustainability.

There is much work to be done, but one day, we may all see self-repairing leather jackets on the runway. Co-Author Martyn Dade-Robertson believes this could go into commercialization in the next decade. Click here to read the research in its entirety. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below