Research Funded by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Shows Glimpse of How Moisture and Humidity Affect Mold Growth
Brent Stephens, civil, architectural, and environmental engineering department chair, associate professor of architectural engineering, and director of the architectural and environmental engineering programs at Illinois Institute of Technology, recently published an article with several co-authors in Nature Communications titled "Microbial and Metabolic Succession on Common Building Materials Under High Humidity Conditions."
Stephens partnered with a team of microbial ecologists from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and San Diego State University, and with chemists at Northwestern University, to investigate the microbial and chemical dynamics of mold growth on common building materials when maintained at high-humidity conditions. Stephens also collaborated with Dan Zhao (M.S. EE '14, Ph.D. candidate), who was responsible for leading the laboratory tests.
The team's research provides insights into how microbes and metabolites interact over time on wetted building materials and influence mold growth. Stephens reports that wet materials experienced higher growth rates but lower fungal diversity, indicating that specific fungal taxa had preferential growth over others upon wetting. "Depending on the building material, and whether materials were tested under wet conditions or just high-humidity conditions, we saw a difference in the types of microbes that flourished on the surface," says Stephens, pointing out that, "certain [microbes] are harmful to health and can release microbial toxins into the air...