Houses Made of Fungus – Fact or Fiction
You might’ve often read or seen descriptions of aliens in books, movies or other media. They’re usually depicted as small green men with large black eyes and oddly shaped heads tapering off into a tip around the chin area. Regardless of how aliens are shown, only few forms of media ever describe the aliens’ houses and almost none have ever described their houses to be made of fungi.
Indeed real life is stranger than fiction because humans might find themselves peering into a future where they live in self repairing houses made of fungi among the red sand dunes of Mars. If not houses made of fungi, in the next 20 or so years, humans will definitely live in a universe where lunar and Martian outposts would be made of the not-so-fluffy stuff. If this doesn’t sound sci-fi enough for you, try to recall those little dinosaurs you put in water overnight to make them grow bigger as a child, and apply the same concept to these mycelia based buildings. Yes, just add water and you’ll be growing houses in no time!
Jokes apart, research at NASA shows that mycelia – which is the branching, threadlike vegetative part of fungus and fungi colonies – can be used in a 3 layered structure to build structures on Mars. This would be a much more welcome alternative to our current methodology of habitat establishment – carrying all the building materials to and fro from Earth to Mars. A brief glimpse of the future would see us transporting myco-based structures compactly in spaceships by keeping the fungi dormant for long periods of time and activating it upon reaching Mars. The activation process is as simple as adding water to the pre-made lightweight myco-structure and waiting for the fungi to grow around the structure’s framework.
What Would It Look Like
The fully grown structure will be contained using the aforementioned 3 layer architecture. The outermost layer of the structure will consist mainly of water ice (commonly found on the Red Planet). This would provide cover to the structure’s inhabitants from harsh conditions. It would also serve as a provider of sunlight to the middle layer, composed of oxygen producing cyanobacteria. This oxygen will aid the growth of the mycelia in the bottom-most layer and also provide oxygen to the inhabitants of the structure.
The base layer will be made up of blocks of heavily processed mycelia, and shaped into bricks. Containment of the mycelium will be necessary to preserve the atmosphere of Mars and prevent the fungi from multiplying. After the fungi has grown into the required shape, it’ll be baked to kill the fungi inside. A secondary safety measure would be to genetically modifying the fungi to make them incapable of survival outside whatever Martian base they’ll be situated in.
Other potential uses
This revolutionary material has potential uses on Earth as well. If experiments show promise, mycelium can be used as an alternative material for buildings, structures, furniture and more on our home planet, and possibly help us reduce carbon emissions.
Mycelia could also be used for water filtration and sewage treatment, alongside a host of other possibilities such as bio-luminescent lighting and humidity regulation.
There are also tests in progress to test the self-replicative and self repairing capabilities of this material, looking for ways to organically rebuild destroyed and deteriorated parts of myco-structures. All of this research is being carried out with funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. You can learn more about NIAC on NASA’s website.
The project is still in its early stages but if everything works out the way it is supposed to, it could lead to potentially game-changing results in the fields of space colonization and exploration.
You can find out more about this NIAC project in the YouTube video below –