These mushrooms can replace petroleum and protect the climate

Many everyday products can be produced in a climate-friendly way with mushrooms

From cleaning agents to cosmetics and clothing to plastics - all of this can be produced with the help of mushrooms and is climate-neutral. The production of these products is currently based on petroleum, including climate-damaging manufacturing processes. However, a German research institute shows how it can be done better.

What causes fear and terror in the refrigerator arouses enthusiasm at the Fraunhofer Institute. Molds are welcome here and are even cultivated. The Fraunhofer researchers are showing new cementation processes and manufacturing processes for industrial production, all of which are based on mushrooms and completely do without CO2 emissions.

Will mushrooms become climate savers?

The laboratories of the Fraunhofer Institute are teeming with mushrooms. In addition to molds, yeast and smut fungi can also be found there. The institute shows numerous alternative ways of climate-friendly production of everyday products - from detergents to plastic packaging. The mushrooms are the focus of the new production methods. "Mushrooms have long been indispensable in the production of antibiotics or in the food industry," comments Professor Dr. Steffen Rupp, the deputy director of the Fraunhofer IGB, in a press release.

What can be produced with mushrooms?

"With the mushrooms we use, we can produce various chemicals in a CO2-neutral way," says Rupp. These chemicals could then be used to produce detergents, emulsifiers, cosmetic and pharmaceutical agents, crop protection agents or even plastics.

An example: malic acid

The researchers describe the production process with mushrooms in more detail using the example of malic acid. This acid is used in jams and juices, for example, and improves the shelf life of baked goods. For the production, molds of the genus Aspergillus are grown on wood and fed with a sugar mixture. Similar to brewing beer, fermentation processes take place in which malic acid is produced. In a similar process, so-called biosurfactants can be obtained from smut mushrooms. These biosurfactants can be used for the production of cleaning agents, crop protection agents, emulsifiers as well as cosmetic and pharmaceutical agents.

Environmental protection on several levels

The mushrooms offer an environmentally friendly alternative on several levels. On the one hand, the production of chemicals by fungi does not generate any CO2 emissions, as is the case when using petroleum. On the other hand, there is an almost inexhaustible fund, since mushrooms are a renewable raw material. These can easily be bred without destroying landscapes and seas. Furthermore, they convince by an amazing variety of products with extensive application possibilities.

From beer to plastic

Another potent player in mushroom production is yeast. According to the Fraunhofer team, yeasts can not only be used to produce beer, but also long-chain carboxylic acids, from which new types of plastics can be produced.

The rocky road from the laboratory to mass production

"In order for the bio-based chemicals to be used for industrial applications, the manufacturing processes must be able to be implemented on a large scale," write the researchers. Here, the bar is set quite high, because around 18 million tons of surfactants are produced annually. The research team is currently still calculating in kilogram dimensions. Solutions for this are already in the works. In a pilot plant, optimal growth conditions are to be created in order to be able to produce chemicals on a tonne scale with the renewable raw materials. (vb)

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