A recent study has shown a living organism in fungus that holds the potential to help scientists develop a more sustainable alternative to animal leather that looks and feels like the real thing.
The study was from the University of Vienna, Imperial College London, and RMIT University in Australia. They state that fungi could outshine regular leather and become a more sustainable and cost-effective substitute. The special organism is called Mycelium. It is the vegetative part of a fungus made of long strands that connect the root systems of different plants and help them communicate.
“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 study says.
A possibility includes using low-cost agricultural and forestry by-products, like sawdust, as a base to grow mycelium on. The mycelium is then grown into sheet form over the course of a couple of weeks, after which it goes through a pressing process, producing a material with a similar texture to animal leather. This material mainly consists of biodegradable elements such as chitin and glucan biopolymers.
By using fungi to manufacture leather, it could draw more eco-conscious consumers and the vegan community, as well as the increasing number of fashion brands seeking to reduce their environmental footprint.