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Question Your World: Can mushrooms make eco-friendly bricks?

When covering science stories, we try our hardest to find good material. Well, sometimes we end up finding great material…and sometimes it happens to be eco-friendly, waste reducing, and life enhancing! For this week's article, let's check out some big stuff that's happening in the world of new eco-friendly materials - made with fungus! Can mushrooms make eco-friendly bricks?

As the global population continues to grow, housing continues to be an issue. Currently the construction of a dwelling takes a lot of time and energy. Heat, waste, and CO2 emissions have many negative impacts on the surrounding areas and even the population of a region. Luckily, a team of materials scientists in Australia just announced an amazing new discovery that could change the way we live - a new type of brick

These new bricks are made from fungus, rice hulls (the coating around the rice), and small shards of glass waste. Making these bricks takes very little energy and is a zero-carbon-process. Some pretty great news for our ever-warming planet! Rice is one of the most commonly grown foods on Earth. Almost 480 million metric tons of rice are consumed every year by humans. About 20% of that yield is rice hulls, an ingredient vital in these eco-friendly bricks. The scientists looked at the nearly 96 million tons of rice hulls harvested every year and the 600,000 metric tons of glass wasted every year in Australia alone, then add some fungi, like mushrooms, and the notion of these bricks started to really grow. 

By using ingredients that would normally just end up in landfills, these bricks help reduce waste while also lowering the carbon dioxide emissions of normal building construction. Not only are these new bricks more eco-friendly, they also improve living conditions for the residents within. For starters, the ingredients used to make these bricks burn much slower in a fire, with less heat, and release much less smoke or CO2 than other synthetic options. By reducing the amount of smoke released during a fire, these new bricks allow more time to help people escape, potentially saving lives. Finally, the silica in the rice and glass make these bricks very unpleasant to termites! 

Pretty cool stuff, right? An anti-termite, eco-friendly fungal brick, probably the coolest thing to happen to mushrooms since the Phish reunion tour! 

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