Funky Fungal Headphones
A partnership between Finnish design studio Aivan, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Aalto University has spawned the Korvaa headphones, made from bioengineered materials. The mesh covering the speakers is made from a biosynthetic spider silk produced by microbes. The outer foam is made from fungus filaments combined with plant cellulose. The inner foam that covers the ears is made of cellulose and hydrophobin, a foaming protein made by fungus. The faux leather is made from another fungus, and the headband is 3D printed using bioplastic made from yeast-produced lactic acid. The Korvaa headphones are largely a proof of concept, as they do not yet include the internal hardware to produce audio.
The purpose of the Korvaa prototype is to demonstrate the versatility of biosynthetic materials by including a range of foam-like, pliable, rigid, and solid materials, along with mesh fabrics. The materials are designed to be easily recyclable or biodegradable. Fungal leather is vegan and a natural alternative to animal leathers or synthetic leathers made from polyurethane. While none of the electronics are included, these materials still show promise for widespread applications. The biosynthetic nature of these materials could allow resource-poor areas to develop ecologically friendly local industries. where raw materials are produced in bioreactors instead of extracted. Advances in biosynthetic electronics might lead to creating entire headphones and countless other products from naturally derived materials, enabling a low-waste circular bioeconomy.