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Fungus headphones could be the future of making tech more sustainable

Image credit: Aivan

With 50 million tons of electronic waste generated each year, and much of that not recycled, it's little wonder that tech brands and consumers alike are growing increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their gadgets.

But one Finnish design company may have found the solution. Researchers at Aivan have created a prototype pair of headphones made entirely from fungus and other biodegradable materials.

According to Engadget, the Korvaa headphones feature a headband that's "3D-printed with bioplastic made from yeast-produced lactic acid", while the padding on the earcups is made from, "a foaming protein produced by fungus, and plant cellulose", one of a group of proteins known as hydrophobins.

Also made from fungus is the faux-leather finish on the earcups, while the mesh over the speakers is derived from a "biosynthetic spider silk produced by microbes".

Image credit: Aivan

Image credit: Aivan

A growing trend

Presented at the SingularityU Nordic summit in Helsinki, the headphones are, for now, just a prototype, and they don't contain any of the necessary electronic components to enable them to transmit audio. 

So, while we can't expect mold-made headphones to flood the market anytime soon, these fungal cans do demonstrate what may be possible in the near future. 

Plus, environmentally-friendly audio tech is already growing in popularity. With big tech companies like Apple pledging to use recycled materials in their manufacturing process, it feels as though the tech world is starting to take the environment seriously. 

Does that mean the upcoming Apple AirPods 2 will be made from fungus? Probably not, but we have seen other brands using unconventional materials in their manufacturing process already. 

The Tri-Art Audio S-Series TA-0.5 turntable (Image credit: TechRadar)

The Tri-Art Audio S-Series TA-0.5 turntable (Image credit: TechRadar)

At the Bristol Hi-Fi Show earlier this year, we saw the Tri-Art Audio S-Series TA-0.5 turntable, which is made from bamboo soaked in hemp and bees wax.

Tri-Art says its use of the material isn't just eco-friendly, but it also makes your records sound great, explaining on its website that bamboo is "very stiff, for excellent rigidity with the ability to dampen vibration".

Elsewhere, CES 2019 saw House of Marley launch its first smart speaker, which is also made out of natural and recycled materials.

Via Engadget

Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she previously worked in the music industry for a few years before finding her calling in journalism. In her spare time Olivia loves playing retro video games, hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora, and bingeing on Netflix.