Intro to the world of fungal- and biomaterials by Jason Padvorac

This is a comprehensive introduction to the field written by @JasonPadvorac in December 2017. He posted this originally in the Fungal Materials and Biofabrication Facebook group. This is a repost here to archive his valuable work.

GETTING STARTED WITH FUNGI

If you are new to working with fungi, I HIGHLY recommend you check out Peter McCoy’s work. Start with these two videos:

Then, if you can get a copy of his book Radical Mycology: http://www.chthaeus.com/Radical-Mycology-by-Peter-McCoy-p/b-rmp.htm

MYCOBRICKS

Myceliated substrates can be quite strong. Here is a video showing a simple process for making a mycobrick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6nurN-Hii8

Essentially, mushroom substrate is allowed to fully colonize, then is heat treated to kill the fungi so it is stable for the long term. Simple!

US Patent #20120135504 goes into some detail about a more advanced process for making compressed mycelial bricks: http://bit.ly/2zmpEcQ

MYCOLEATHER (Kombucha)

Kombucha scobys can be dried - those are made of a symbiosis of yeasts and bacteria. The dried material is immediately similar to leather in a number of ways, and is much simpler to cultivate than pure fungi.

Here is a fantastic, step by step video of one process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds8ZFzOwGeI

They found very good success taking a thick scoby, drying it stretched on a frame, and spraying with a heated mixture of wax and oil and buffing that into the surface. It was supple, waterproof, and visually attractive. Lots of work to do, but a very promising start!

MYCOLEATHER (mycelial mats)

Mycelia can be cultured in a bulk substrate (like straw, sawdust etc) in a tray for any fungus that make tough, leathery fruiting bodies, like Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail) or Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi). When being grown, a mat of mycelia often forms where the substrate is in contact with the jar or bag - we can harvest those mycelial mats to make mycoleather.

One possible way to manipulate those mats is to place something flat immediately above or in contact with the substrate, so the mat forms along the top of the substrate. Or to harvest a mat that forms below the substrate (but harvest might be trickier). That allows easy harvesting, and easy determination of the shape of the mat. Spawn that has colonized sufficiently to fight off mold can be broken up and laid out in a thin layer, covered and allowed to grow a mat.

For small pieces of mycoleather, this could be done in a baking pan, or maybe even on a cookie sheet.

To make thicker, tougher mycoleather multiple sheets could be layered on top of each other, possibly with fibers laid between them, and then conditions manipulated to induce them to fuse together.

It is likely that this material would benefit from a similar oil/wax treatment as in making kombucha mycoleather.

We need to do experimentation to determine how growing conditions impact the properties of the skin:

  • durability
  • thickness
  • texture
  • appearance
  • color

Some of the variables worth exploring are:

  • timing of applying a cold shock to trigger fruiting-body formation in a flat sheet along the mold
  • growing temperature
  • substrate
  • species and strain of fungi

MYCOPAPER

Mushroom paper can be made from similar species by taking the fruiting bodies or mycelia, blending them with water to form a pulp, and proceeding to make homemade paper using any ordinary method for doing so.

MYCOFOAM

This is a concept for a mycomaterial that would be very lightweight and porous, possibly grown on a scaffold. One possibility would be to try to have the substrate itself be the scaffold. One way would for it to be very loose and airy - like, maybe fluff up chopped straw? Or even something like cotton balls, cattail fluff, fireweed fluff, dandelion seeds, things like that could possibly give a very light and airy mycofoam.

You could also maybe have a layer of substrate, then put something like paper or thin cardboard a quarter inch or half inch above - close enough that the mycelia would bridge the gap. Once it had colonized that, place another layer on top. That way you could build up layers of mycofoam laminated with something else.

Discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/168064990455119/permalink/173457916582493/

MYCO-OBJECTS

Fungal substrate blocks can be broken up, molded into a shape, and allowed to fully colonize then heat treated like mycobricks. With the right equipment, substrate can be formed into a material that can be 3D printed. After the colonized substrate is shaped, it is allowed to then completely colonize before being stabilized by heat treatment.

An excellent example from the group is shared by Leighton Bankes here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/168064990455119/permalink/168241100437508/

MYCOCOB

This is a highly conceptual idea. The notion is to build a structure with cob, and mix spawn in with the cob. Ideally this would lead to mycelia colonizing the straw during the process of the cob hardening and drying, and lead to better strength and insulation. Much experimentation would need to be done with this concept before it could be deployed in serious structures, but there is a lot of potential!

Cob structures are fantastic at thermal capacity, but are notorious for having poor insulation. If colonization with mycelia could improve the insulation it could be significant.

Cob structures also require copious amounts of clay as a binding agent. If mycelia could take the place of the clay, partially or completely, it could potentially reduce the labor and expense required to erect these structures.

MYCODOMES

Mycoplaster

[Very rough idea now, of plaster-like material made with/grown with fungi.]

Mycomesh

Material suitable for purposes such as bug netting could be grown by making a thin layer of substrate and letting it colonize, then adding a softening agent and drying it.

1 Like