Materials from fungal mycelium

Fungal mycelium is a natural, renewable raw material that occurs naturally in large quantities in the soil. It offers enormous potential for developing biodegradable materials. To date, fungal materials exist only very sporadically on the market. However, the demand for sustainable and animal-free materials is high.


At the Fraunhofer IAP, we develop novel, sustainable and biodegradable materials using networks of mycelia from various fungi incubated with residual materials from agriculture and forestry, such as reed cuttings or sawdust.

In addition to materials made from pure mycelium, we also produce mycelium-based natural fiber composites with new properties. Materials from fungi have the potential for versatile applications – from accessories for clothing and furniture to packaging, construction and insulation materials.

Current projects:

Animal free alternative for leather products

Packaging from fungal mycelium

  • © Fraunhofer IAP

    Fungal mycelium consists of an underground, interwoven network of fibers. These so-called hyphae give rise to fruiting bodies known as mushrooms. The fiber network is comparable to the root system of plants and trees. For millions of years, it has adapted to grow between and through plant cells (including in dead wood) to use them as a nutrient source.

  • © Fraunhofer IAP

    Based on agricultural or forestry residues and fungal mycelium, novel materials are created at Fraunhofer IAP in a natural growth process.   

    By carefully selecting the fungi, the substrates used and the targeted control of growth conditions, we produce soft, flexible, rigid, and robust mycelium-based materials in various sizes and shapes.

    We can specifically influence texture, color, thickness, and other physical properties during growth. The easy processability after the growth process enables versatile applications.

  • © Fraunhofer IAP

    Mycelium-based materials can be further processed, for example, into leather-like alternatives and flat textiles and fabrics, by combining them with natural fibers. As a result, environmentally friendly and sustainable products are created that can be used as animal-free alternatives. Examples include accessories for clothing, shoes, bags or furniture. Think creative!


  • © Fraunhofer IAP

    Mycelium-based products can be composted after their use phase and returned to the natural cycle as organic decomposition products. They thus form the basis for the growth of new plants, which in turn can be used by fungal mycelium as a source of nutrients. Mycelium-based products thus enable a natural and essential step towards a circular economy.


    Especially compared to conventional leather production, the manufacturing process is environmentally-, resource-friendly, energy and performance efficient, and time- and space-saving. Unlike conventional leather production, the cultivation and processing of fungal mycelium do not require toxic chemicals and use little water. Leather is also often produced in countries where low health and environmental standards apply. Compared to the growth time of a cow (about two years), the cultivation of fungal mycelium is also much more time-efficient at 2-3 weeks.

Animal free alternative for leather products


Our focus is currently on producing mycelium-based materials, which can be used as an animal-free alternative for leather products due to their similar haptics. The first accessories in the fashion sector were created in collaboration with a Berlin designer. Fungal materials produced at Fraunhofer IAP have a more consistent quality than fungi collected from nature. Furthermore, larger pieces of leather-like products can be made from them.


Development of animal-free alternatives for leather products based on fungal mycelium.



  • consistent quality through automated parameter control
  • simple scaling


  • use of renewable and biodegradable raw materials
  • multiple use of material flows



  • flexible control of properties during the growth phase
  • easy scaling and further processing after the growth phase


  • use of natural materials
  • recycling of residual materials from agriculture and forestry
  • efficient use of energy and water, working time and floor space


  • accessories for clothing
  • bags and wallets
  • shoes
  • furniture 
  • and more


Packaging from fungal myceliuml

Another topic is the development of sustainable packaging from fungal mycelium. For this purpose, we use residual and raw materials from local agriculture and forestry – e.g., wood, straw or green cuttings – to develop sustainable packaging materials with the help of tree fungi. To achieve the "sticking" of individual residual materials by the fungi, we precisely adjust the degree of colonization and optimize mycelial growth rate and density. We then functionalize the mycelium-based blanks to be suitable as packaging materials. Project partners are the Institute for Food and Environmental Research e.V. and Agro Saarmund e.G.

Picture: Handover of agricultural raw materials of Agro Saarmund e.G. to the Fraunhofer IAP. © Agro Saarmund e.G.