You might think of mushrooms as something you put on pizza. But for a while, researchers have been looking at using some types of fungi as biological factories to produce a tough, durable material that could be used for everything from chairs to entire buildings.
Terreform ONE, a Brooklyn-based group that promotes urban design, recently was named as a finalist in the Spark Awards design competition for using mycoform, as the material is called, to produce a suite of "multi-curved biomaterial furniture."
The project occupies "the intersection of parametric CAD design and synthetic biology," according to Terraform's description of the project.
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To produce mycoform, Terraform used Ganoderma lucidum, a fungal species that has a long history in China and other Asian countries as a folk medicine. But the mushroom has another useful attribute as well - enzymes that enable it to digest a wide variety of cellulose-based agricultural bioproducts. In the project, the researchers fed Ganoderma a mix of discarded wood chips, gypsum, and oat bran. The resulting material can be integrated with a bacterial cellulose skin to create a hard biopolymer, a type of natural plastic that is suitable for manufacturing.
"This low-tech, low energy process is pollution free, and contains a low embodied energy as part of a local ecosystem," according to Terraform's description of the project. (Here's a video explaining it all in more detail.)
Pieces of Terraform can be shaped to produce exotic-looking furniture. But the material is tough enough that it can be used to construct buildings. In a previous experiment, the researchers grew mycoform bricks.
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"This low-tech, low energy process is pollution free, and contains a low embodied energy as part of a local ecosystem," Terraform notes. "The technology is easily transferable to the developing world. At the end of the useful product life cycle, Mycoform can be composted and safely reintroduced back into the environment, where it can be naturally biodegraded."
Genspace, another Brooklyn organization that provides community access to laboratory facilities, assisted with the furniture project.