Juice industry waste to become biodegradable filters and fungal fibre membranes

Research at the University of Borås has previously shown that filamentous fungi can be used to convert the food waste to different products from food to sewing thread and leather-like materials. Researchers will now investigate its potential when it comes to filters and membranes for different applications. Akram Zamani, Associate Professor of Industrial Biotechnology at the Department of Resource Recovery and Building Technology, is leading the new research project, which is funded by Vinnova, among other actors.

“Various types of filters are often made from plastic or petroleum-based materials that cannot biodegrade. By making such products from fungal fibres instead, they become biodegradable and much more environmentally friendly. We have seen that polymers from fungi have excellent properties comparable to the unsustainable materials used today,” said Akram Zamani.

Filters and membranes made from fungi will function just like the filter products available today. Air or water molecules can pass through, but dirt, air polluting particles, or viruses are filtered out and remain stuck in the filter.

The natural properties of the fungus suit the purpose

An earlier discovery that has been made shows the fungal fibres have natural properties which make them suitable for use in filters and textile healthcare materials, for example.

“Filters, breathing masks, and water-purifying fungal membranes have several advantages. Fungal fibres have naturally antibacterial properties, and this can be important in, for example, face masks. This makes the material very useful,” said Akram Zamani.

Based on previous research and modern needs

Akram Zamani has previously led and been part of several research projects in the research area Resource Recovery. From these projects, she and her colleagues have been inspired to further explore the potential uses of fungal fibres.

“We have seen the potential of fungi and our ideas for new uses are based in part on our ongoing research on fungal textiles, together with the research results that we are seeing all over the world right now. Creating new sustainable materials is something we need solve as soon as possible, and to this end, fungi can be very important,” she said.

The current need of society to manufacture products from more sustainable materials is one of the reasons why this research is so important. The goals of circularity and developing processes to take advantage of residual materials and by-products are another.

“The fungus is grown on waste from, among other things, the juice industry, where we make use of the leftovers from juice production, so it is very climate-smart. It is important to see waste and by-products as resources that we can reuse.”

About the project

Project name: Development of resource efficient processes to reuse of food waste for construction of membranes and filters for water purification and facemasks respectively

The budget for the project is SEK 6.3 million. The project is funded by Vinnova (SEK 4 million), but also by the University of Borås, as well as the companies PANGAIA Materials Science Ltd (UK), Ragn-Sells Denmark A/S (Denmark), OrganoClick AB (Sweden), Herrljunga Cider AB ( Sweden), Biolaffort, and Institut Pascal (France).

Read more

Read more about the research project on the project’s webpage

Read more about Akram Zamani

Read more about research in Resource Recovery