Functional Fungi

Mushrooms are helping to create a huge range of eco materials due to their unique properties – such as Muskin (a leather replacement), Mycoprotein (a fungi-derived meat replacement), Pestalotiopsis microspora (a plastic-consuming mushroom), manipulated mycelium (which makes up mushroom root networks) walls, and bio-bricks.

Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris

But the miraculous use of this natural material doesn’t stop there. A partnership between architect Dirk Hebel and engineer Philippe Block has sought to develop a self-supporting structure out of fungi. The resulting composition is a tree-shaped system made from mycelium with the aim of developing a framework strong enough to support a two storey building.

Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris
Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris

The key to using this comparatively weak material is knowledge and application of geometry (the method used to develop this structure was developed by the Block Research Group at ETH Zรผrich). Hebel and Block’s MycoTree is made up of a system of individual mycelium blocks that withstand the strain of weight through compression. Although bamboo is utilised as block endplates, the load-bearing is all the work of the mycelium.

Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris
Photo Credit: Juney Lee

The mycelium works as a natural glue, digesting plant-based materials, such as sawdust, and binding it into “a structurally active material composite”. Using organic materials means composting whole or partial elements of the structure is possible, and during their use they will absorb carbon. The mycelium can be grown locally, with a sterilized substrate mixed with mycelium tissue and after a few days the fungi will develop into a series of interlocking mycelium filaments grown from the nutrients of the organic matter. This mass can then be โ€œcastโ€ into moulds which after a few days will have formed into its final shape. The material is then dried to inhibit further growth. For those familiar with mycelium and mushroom growth, the characteristic fuzzy white appearance is quite recognisable (although the dried out texture would not be desirable if attempting to grow mushrooms for consumption) and it definitely has the odd look of mixed natural materials.

Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris
Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris

MycoTech have also developed a non-toxic mycelium board composite called BioBo. These organic-looking surfaces have been created with the “expectations of architects and designers” in mind which “can be combined to create remarkable structural patterns that rejuvenate residential, industrial and public spaces”. They have a truly unique appearance that is highly impactful, warm, and intriguing.

MycoTech

A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, March 2021.

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