Engineering fungal networks for ground improvement

Grainne El Mountassir, Alexandra Schellenger, Emmanuel Salifu, Rebecca J. Lunn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

Abstract

Conventional ground improvement techniques are energy intensive, highly invasive and require the introduction of environmentally damaging chemicals or carbon intensive materials. There is a clear need for the development of sustainable, low-carbon technologies for ground improvement. Recently, geotechnical engineers have started to consider biological-based solutions including engineered vegetation, biopolymers, and bio-mineralisation (e.g. microbially induced carbonate precipitation) for ground improvement. At the University of Strathclyde, we are investigating the use of fungal networks for ground engineering applications. Fungi produce hyphae, long filamentous structures which collectively are called a mycelium. Mycelia can grow to vast sizes, with individual mycelium (in forest floors) covering areas up to 9km2 in North America. As such there is great potential ‘to grow’ fungal mycelia for earth infrastructure applications over vast areas. This study investigates the influence of fungal hyphae growth on erosion behaviour. Jet erosion tests were performed on sands inoculated with different fungal species: Pleurotus ostreatus, Trichoderma harzianum, Mucor racemosus with periods of incubation up to 9 weeks. Laser scans were carried out to determine the total eroded soil volume and final geometry. Results show that fungal treatment significantly reduces soil erodibility compared to untreated control specimens. Growth behaviour varies for different fungal and as such so too does the protection offered against erosion: some species form dense mycelium mats at the soil-air interface whereas other species prefer to penetrate deeper into the soil providing reinforcement with depth. Our results demonstrate the great potential of fungal-based technologies as low cost, minimally-invasive techniques for ground improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Resilient Materials 4 Life 2020 (RM4L2020) International Conference
EditorsR. Maddalena, M. Wright-Syed
Place of PublicationCardiff
Pages63-68
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781399908320
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2021
EventResilient materials 4 Life Conference - Cardiff/Online, UK
Duration: 20 Sep 202122 Sep 2021

Conference

ConferenceResilient materials 4 Life Conference
CityUK
Period20/09/2122/09/21

Keywords

  • engineering
  • fungal networks
  • ground improvement

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