News Release 

HSE graduate develops self-repairing building material from mushroom spores

The project won the Outstanding Science Award at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

National Research University Higher School of Economics

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IMAGE: Mycokarst is used to strengthen building materials that are especially prone to destruction view more 

Credit: Anna Budnikova, HSE University

Anna Budnikova, a graduate of HSE University's Master's Programme 'Prototyping Future Cities', has won the Outstanding Science Award at the 2019 Biodesign Challenge Summit for her research with mycokarst, a new self-repairing material made from mushroom spores for urban environments.

The Biodesign Challenge Summit (BDC) is an annual international competition for developments in biotechnology by young professionals in medicine, physics, urban studies and architecture. Anna Budnikova was selected from more than 500 students from 34 universities in the world. The jury evaluated the projects based on the originality of the idea, the presentation of the development, and the impact of the work results on the quality of life of people.

Mycokarst is a new generation of biomaterials based on karst or stone composite and mushroom spores, which are able to repair themselves in extreme conditions. Anna Budnikova used mycokarst to strengthen building materials that are especially prone to destruction.

She conducted her study in Kazan, a city located on karst formations. It turned out that with the help of mushroom spores, it is possible to repair deterioration and holes in the karst. When moisture gets into the spores of the fungi, they begin to expand within the cracks of the material, and, upon reacting with its components, produce natural limestone, which is known for its strength. Among the materials produced, karst modules with components of ash, dolomite flour and clay were found to be the most durable, capable of holding their weight and an external load of up to 40 MPa.

The control technology of 'non-programmable' urban phenomena, tested on karst, can also be applied to architectural wall materials.

The Mycokarst study was conducted from February to May 2019 under the guidance of leading Shukhov Lab expert, Elena Mitrofanova, for the annual international university competition, Biodesign Challenge.

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