‘World’s first’ as fungi to be used as smart building material

Scientists in Bristol are developing a ‘revolutionary’ new type of intelligent building that incorporates living fungi to react with changes in air pollutants, light and temperature.

Fungi will be grown inside the building’s structure to act as a sensor detecting changes, and computers will analyse the information.

When particular changes are recognised, the system will be able to warn residents’ of high pollution levels and have the potential to control connected devices such as lights and heaters.

Researchers from the UWE Bristol’s Centre of Unconventional Computing will lead the construction of the smart home as part of a £2.5m project funded by the European Commission.

UWE Bristol computer scientists will work with European experts in architecture, biophysics and mycology on the project, which has been heralded as a potential breakthrough for the building industry due to its eco-friendly credentials.

By using fungi as an integrated structural and computational substrate, buildings would have low production and running costs, embedded artificial intelligence, and could be returned to nature when no longer in use.

The three-year project is the first time fungi have been used as a construction material.

Professor Andrew Adamatzky, director of the Centre of Unconventional Computing, said: ‘Our overarching goal is to design and bio-manufacture a sensing and computing building with fungi. This is a radically new approach as it proposes to use a real living organism in the material structure, which is also tuned to perform computation.

‘If successful, the building as a whole will be able to recognise lighting levels, chemicals in the environment, the presence of people, and will respond to touch.

‘Acting as a massively-parallel computer, the building will control devices depending on the environmental conditions. For example, a warning light could be lit if high levels of air pollution were detected or inhabitants could be warned about high or low temperatures. It’s our vision for an alternative version of a smart home.

‘This type of building would be ecologically-friendly as it will be made from natural materials, and will be lightweight, waterproof and recyclable when it reaches the end of its life.’

For more information on the project visit here.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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