Stronger material and more resource-efficient process when researchers mimic fungi

By imitating the way fungi decompose wood, WWSC researchers at KTH have been able to make a new type of material in an energy-efficient process. The enzyme-based process both consumed less energy and gave a stronger resulting material, compared to similar chemical methods, the researchers reported.
Photo: Salla Koskela, KTH
Photo: Salla Koskela, KTH

In the nature, fungal carbohydrate-active enzymes alter the wood cell wall structure in the process of decomposition of wood, which the researchers used as a starting point for their process.

The researchers combined enzymes and densification of the wood to obtain a material that could replace plastics, glass or metals in applications such as packaging or electronics. 

The developed process required considerably less pressure (2.7 Megapascal) compared to a traditional chemical process, that requires 15 Megapascal and an elevated temperature of 100° C, Professor Qi Zhou, responding author of the study, says to

“The most important thing for us is to emphasize that this enzyme-based technology that we have developed can be used as a general, sustainable and environmentally friendly production process. A way to replace oil-based plastics in favor of wood fibers in the production of composite materials and various molded products.”, says Qi Zhou.

Read more at (article in Swedish)

The results were recently published in the scientific journal Small (impact factor 15.5).

Koskela, S., Wang, S., Li, L., Zha, L., Berglund, L. A., Zhou, Q., An Oxidative Enzyme Boosting Mechanical and Optical Performance of Densified Wood Films. Small 2023, 2205056.