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Traditional insulating materials are destroying the environment, says expert

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to Ehab Sayed, Founder of biotechnology company, BIOHM, who told us that fungi can completely transform ecosystems from the ground up

Fungi are nature’s janitors.

This is what Ehab Sayed, Founder and Chief Evolution Officer at biotechnology company, BIOHM told us on this week’s Net Hero Podcast.

‘For a long time, biologists categorised fungi as plants and we didn’t realise what they were.

‘We are finding so much about them and their properties and capabilities, they can control the minds of other organisms. They can completely transform ecosystems from the ground up. They’re nature’s janitors and a source of circularity.

‘Nature has got billions of years on us and on what we can develop and create.

‘Looking at how technologies have evolved in the natural world, how they have learned to adapt to different needs, really gives us insight into the strategies that we can integrate into the products and projects that we are working on to really achieve a holistic solution with what we’re creating.’

Ehab told us that his company, BIOHM, has created a fungi replacement for traditional insulation.

‘What led me to fungi was looking at the most successful insulating materials in the construction industry, which are also some of the most harmful to our environment.

‘And I looked at their structure and the kind of bubbles or porosity that are in the material, that are required to achieve the thermal conductivity for the industry.

‘And I started to compare the structures in nature with similar properties.

‘I found that fungi can create the most interlinked webs under the soil. It’s actually what holds all the topsoil together. In forests, the largest organism in the world are fungi and it can span across an entire forest.

‘We take fungi roots which are self-multiplying and you can multiply them infinitely.

‘We then take waste streams from agriculture, food, urban mining and we introduce those to our fungi strains. The fungi strains consume the feedstock.

‘Then you can just dehydrate the fungi and you end up with a panel that is comparable to a plastic composite material.

‘We tested our product against industry standards and we are outperforming the plastic, wools and materials that have been established for decades.’

Mr Sayed told us that BIOHM has also created fungi that can consume hard-to-recycle plastics.

‘In 2018, we had a jar of forgotten fungi growing in the back. There was a little plastic sponge on top of it that would allow it to breathe. We realised the fungi decided to grow out of the jar and completely engulf the sponge.

‘When we cut it open, there was no sign of the sponge inside, barely a silhouette of where the sponge was supposed to be.

‘We realised that it can digest the plastic. We ended up developing four different strains of fungi that can consume anything from polyurethane, polyethylene, polyester and polystyrene.

‘And we were able to demonstrate degradability within 28 days to the point where the plastic was no longer recognisable under a chemical analysis.’

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