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  • Writer's pictureAngus Stewart

Magic Mushrooms

Mushroom with magical properties

Mushrooms and other fungi have many amazing properties, but scientists have now added the ability to save the planet as one of them. Using mushroom skin to replace unrecyclable plastic polymers that form the base, or substrate, of electronic chips could be a game changer for the electronics industry .

Did you know that mushrooms are now a trendy substitute for leather? Yes, you can find high-end mushroom bags and clothing designed by big shots like Stella McCartney and Hermes. Even Mercedes-Benz is getting in on the action, using mushrooms to make seat cushions for their fancy all-electric EQXX sedan. Who knew shrooms could be so stylish?

It turns out those magic mushrooms are doing more than just jazzing up our fashion game. Researchers at Johannes Kepler University in Austria have discovered a mind-boggling use for these fungi that could help save the planet.

A scientist named Martin Kaltenbrunner and his team have figured out how to use hardy, easily-grown mushrooms as a biodegradable base for electronics chips. The plastic polymers used in these chips are a major source of e-waste and contribute to global warming.

The team wanted to replace those plastic polymers with a more eco-friendly material and they ended up discovering that mushrooms could be the answer. Specifically, they used a mushroom called Ganoderma lucidum, which grows on dead trees and has been revered for its health benefits in Asia.

Here's the mind-blowing part: the skin of this mushroom turned out to be a perfect fit for chip design. It can withstand high temperatures and works like a charm as an insulator and conductor. They even managed to metalise it and add copper, chromium, and gold. This enabled mushroom-based circuit boards.

One of the most significant advantages of the mushroom-based substrate is its resilience and shape adaptability. It can be bent thousands of times without damage and offers a new dimension of flexibility in chip design. Additionally, the substrate's ability to repel moisture and UV light suggests it could have a lifespan of several hundred years. The researchers also propose using mushroom skins as battery separators and casings, envisioning a new concept of sustainable batteries.

What makes this discovery even more remarkable is the eco-friendly nature of mushroom production. These fungi grow effortlessly and rapidly, with the availability of CO2 aiding their development. Within four weeks, mature mycelium can be harvested from beechwood. And when these mushroom-based devices reach the end of their lifespan, they quietly biodegrade in any soil within two weeks.

The potential applications of mushroom-based electronics are vast, from wearable sensors to radio tags. By embracing this sustainable alternative, engineers have an opportunity to combat the negative impacts of electronic consumption and pave the way toward a greener future.

In the quest to mitigate climate change, mushrooms have proven to be truly magical once again, offering hope and innovation in unexpected ways.


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