I am an architecture student, currently doing research at VUB on a range of different properties of mycelium for a thesis on the potential of the material in an architectural framework. I started out with an exploration of colour. At the moment my approach is very empirical since I am lacking a background in biology and I would love to hear your insight on my experiments
The objective of my first experiment was to investigate the possibility of implementing either temporal or permanent colour in the material by growing Trametes Versicolor on agar mediums, coloured with both organic and synthetic dyes. The colorants were dissolved in the agar solutions before autoclaving them for 45 minutes.
Inoculation of coloured agar mediums
2% malt agar
1 sample with colourless reference medium
1 sample with pink solid watercolour
1 sample with yellow food colouring
1 sample with turmeric
1 sample with purple organic soap dye
1 sample with red liquid watercolour
1 sample with black solid watercolour
1 sample with blue acrylic paint
1 sample with green textile colorant
Organic colorants will be used as a source of nutrients; will thus be easily degraded and won’t stay visible for a long period of time. Synthetic dyes will not be degraded as easily, and the pigment will last longer.
Most pigments were degraded by Trametes Versicolor and after five days of growth, almost all petridishes were covered in a white blanket of hyphae. However, the liquid watercolour (red) was introduced in the hyphae system of the organism, resulting in a pink mycelium that is growing brighter in colour over time. I have repeated the experiment with blue liquid watercolour, which also seems to work. After drying the samples, the soap dye (purple) and food colouring (yellow) also left a colour, less vibrant however, to the mycelium.
Trametes Versicolor on medium with liquid watercolour
The sample with acrylic paint (blue) turned yellow-ish as the organism grew through the medium and the gradual degradation of the pigment is well noticeable.
Trametes Versicolor in medium with acrylic paint
When the medium was fully grown through, this sample was also dried. After drying, this sample showed translucent properties.
Sample after drying
I am now trying to understand why liquid watercolour, rather than the other dyes, seems to stay present in the organism (glycerin or ox gall in the watercolour paint?) and what causes the translucent properties of the acrylic paint sample. I will also try colouring mycelium with algae- and fungi-based pigments or with Streptomyces Coelicolor; so any advice on that is always welcome
Thanks for reading!
Master Thesis by Lennert Van Rompaey, Under supervision of Elise Elsacker, Prof. Lars De Laet and Prof. Eveline Peeters / Vrije Universiteit Brussel / Department of Architectural Engineering and Bioengineering Sciences is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.