New research demonstrates that the strength of 3D printed clay can be enhanced by incorporating fungus.

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The Future of Construction: Mycelium, Clay, and Sustainability

In a groundbreaking study, the Institute of Architecture and Media at Graz University of Technology has unveiled an incredible new method of 3D printing. Their research paper, titled “MyCera: Application of Mycelial Growth Within Digitally Manufactured Clay Structures,” explores the fusion of mycelium, clay, and sawdust as a sustainable building material.

Mycelium, which acts as the “roots” of fungi, has been previously utilized in construction and design. Fraunhofer IBP, for example, harnessed its properties for sound-insulating structures. However, this study exemplifies a new approach by incorporating mycelium into digitally manufactured clay structures.

The research team, consisting of Julian Jauk, Lukas Gosch, Hana Vašatko, Ingolf Christian, Anita Klaus, and Milena Stavric, has discovered that mycelium, combined with sawdust and clay, provides a highly sustainable alternative to traditional reinforcing materials such as glass fiber. By introducing mycelium into the clay composite, the structure becomes fortified, enabling it to endure over time. Even after the construction is complete, mycelium continues to grow within the structure, providing ongoing reinforcement.

In their experiments, mycelium constituted 10% of the component’s weight, transforming the structure into a living ecosystem of clay and fungi. This living reinforcement process opens up possibilities for an ultra-slow 3D printing process, where layers are interconnected with growing mycelium.

To conduct their research, the team utilized a Delta WASP 40100 Clay printer, which significantly increased the tensile strength of the finished component. With this promising outcome, the researchers envision replacing cement-based binders with this innovative process, potentially reducing CO2 emissions and promoting sustainable construction practices. Moreover, this method also has the potential to replace artificial fibers in various other structures, expanding its application beyond traditional construction.

The Graz team’s work represents a leap forward in the field of construction. By utilizing entirely sustainable materials, waste can be minimized, and buildings can be efficiently recycled at the end of their life cycle. Additionally, the aesthetic appeal of the MyCera material cannot be overlooked. Its unconventional appearance, coupled with its self-reinforcing nature, presents an exciting prospect for architects and designers alike.

While the construction industry may initially be hesitant to embrace this “foreign” material, there are many other immediate applications where it can prove beneficial. For visionary architects, remote structures, such as bridges in isolated locations, could greatly benefit from this sustainable composite. Furthermore, its aesthetic and functional attributes make it a desirable choice for public sculptures and specific municipal projects.

The innovative look and functionality of MyCera give us a glimpse into the future of construction. As an optimist, I believe we will continue to witness the emergence of new, sustainable materials that not only revolutionize aesthetics but also transform building practices.

So, stay informed about the latest news from the 3D printing industry, and join in the conversation about sustainable construction materials. Embracing sustainability not only reduces our impact on the planet, but it also paves the way for a more efficient and environmentally friendly future.

And remember, together we can build a brighter future for construction.

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