Person holding a sheet of mycelium leather
 VTT researchers are exploring applications for mycelium leather in the accessory, footwear and garment segments. Image: VTT

Researchers in Finland develop sustainable alternative to leather and synthetic leather

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has successfully demonstrated the continuous production of mycelium leather, avoiding resource-intensive processes and hazardous chemicals in the process.

James O’Sullivan

27.07.2021

Thanks to VTT, people may one day be wearing accessories, footwear and garments made of fungal mycelium, a bio-based raw material that can be sustainably processed into leather-like materials.

“The material has a leathery look and feel and can be as strong as animal leather,” said VTT’s senior scientist Géza Szilvay. “It also offers the possibility to be coloured and patterned, and it does not contain any backing or supporting materials.”

VTT developed the leather alternative to mitigate the negative environmental impact of leather and synthetic leather production.

man monitoring production of mycelium leather

VTT’s technology enables the continuous manufacturing of mycelium leather sheets by the metre, an approach that is applicable to industrial roll-to-roll production. Image: VTT

The research centre’s patent-pending technology for producing the leather alternative is based on growing mycelium in common bioreactors and is easily scalable for commercial needs. Similar fermentation technology is already widely used in the food, chemical and pharma industries.

The film-making process developed by VTT enables continuous mycelium leather alternative production using VTT’s pilot equipment. This method ensures consistent quality, competitive production price and reduced material wastage.

In addition to product development possibilities, the researchers are looking to improve tear strength and abrasion resistance by bio-based approaches.

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