Towards sustainable textiles – can fungi be used to produce useful textile materials?

  The textile industry is based largely on the use of cotton, leather and oil derived polymers and these industries are resource intensive and not sustainable. For example, cotton production requires vast quantities of water and is often grown in areas short in water. Chemically produced fabrics require intensive manufacture, rely on non-sustainable sources and can result in significant by-products. In essence there is an urgent need for the textile industry to develop sustainable solutions and produce material that is of low environmental impact from both production and disposal viewpoints. One potential option to improve sustainability is to use the ability of fungi to grow on locally sourced plant materials (and other plant based wastes) and develop into a thick mat-like mycelium that can be used as an alternative textile. This mat-like mycelium could be dried and treated to form a strong material for a variety of utilitarian or decorative design purposes including apparel, interior and exterior textiles.
The work is multidisciplinary in nature and requires a unique combination of skills from creative design, engineering and life sciences (microbial biotechnology) to deliver a successful outcome.
Overall this project aims to develop sample textiles made of fungal mycelium that are grown from readily (locally) available plant products/plant waste. These textiles will be tested for their suitability for use as clothing (or other products).
The work will be done by growing selected species of fungi (known to grow on plant products) on a small scale in controlled laboratory experiments. The fungi that show the most effective growth will be chosen to produce a sample textile(s). These samples will be used to create prototype garments which will be tested for tensile strength, size change, seam twisting, button pulling and colour fastness.
The fungal textile can also be examined for degradability by adding known amounts of fungal samples to nylon mesh bags and burying in soil (in a controlled laboratory setting). The weight of fungal material left after soil burial can be calculated giving an estimation of biodegradability of the material. It is important that fungal material has minimal environmental impact on disposal.
The production of a viable fungal clothing material has the potential to transform the clothing sector and provide a new market for ecologically concerned customers.

This project was funded through the Interface Multiparty competition. A competition which is open to groups of business in the food & drink, creative industries and tourism sectors collaborating with universities and research institutes. (Interface is hosted by Edinburgh Innovations Limited, a company incorporated in Scotland).

  • Start Date:

    1 February 2018

  • End Date:

    31 July 2018

  • Activity Type:

    Externally Funded Research

  • Funder:

    Edinburgh Innovations Ltd

  • Value:

    £7500

Project Team