Bio-based materials are gaining importance in the building industry, as the focus on sustainability and life-cycle-assessment has increased substantially over the last decade. Wood and wood-engineered products as well as insulation materials made from cellulose, wood, flax, hemp, etc. are increasingly used. These materials are made from renewable resources and with considerably lower energy consumption than various other building materials, such as insulation polymers, steel and concrete. As steel can corrode and concrete can rot, so can bio-based building materials degrade over time when exposed to those conditions that favour decay. Since fungi cause not only aesthetical degradation, but can also severely compromise the structural integrity of a building component this is critical for any service life approach. Consequently, a proper understanding of the fungal susceptibility of bio-based materials is needed, both for optimal application of bio-based materials as for the design of new materials. Based on a combination of tests we try to unravel the role of the material‘s chemical components, structure and moisture dynamics on its fungal susceptibility, as well as the interaction between those material characteristics. In a first test set-up, the ‘paste test‘, the material‘s structure is removed and fungal growth is assessed over time in 2D, with only the material‘s chemical components playing a role. In the second test set-up, the ‘X-ray CT test‘, fungal development is assessed nondestructively in 3D with X-ray CT, giving an indication of moisture production and distribution over time, in relation to the material‘s structure. By comparing the results, we have a better idea of how much each material characteristic influences fungal susceptibility. This knowledge can then be used for optimising fungal testing of bio-based materials, ensuring optimal application and providing the building industry with the confidence they need to pave the way to a more sustainable future.
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