Sixteen wires of various colors are attached in pairs to record the electrical activity of split gill fungi (Schizophyllum commune) on a mossy, wooden stick. photo by Irina Petrova Adamatzky

Unconventional Computing Laboratory Grows Its Own Electronics

While some might say we’re living in a cyberpunk future already, one technology that’s conspicuously absent is wetware. The Unconventional Computing Laboratory is working to change that.

Previous work with slime molds has shown useful for spatial and network optimization, but mycelial networks add the feature of electrical spikes similar to those found in neurons, opening up the possibility of digital computing applications. While the work is still in its early stages, the researchers have already shown how to create logic gates with these fantastic fungi.

Long-term, lead researcher [Andrew Adamatzky] says, “We can say Iā€™m planning to make a brain from mushrooms.ā€ That goal is quite awhile away, but using wetware to build low power, self-repairing fungi devices of lower complexity seems like it might not be too far away. We think this might be applicable to environmental sensing applications since biological systems are likely to be sensitive to many of the same contaminants we humans care about.

We’ve seen a other efforts in myceliotronics, including biodegradable PCB substrates and attempts to send sensor signals through a mycelial network.

Via Tom’s Hardware.

A notated illustration showing how a mycelial network may be functionalized as a PCB substrate. The process starts with Cu vapor deposition onto the network followed by Au either by more vapor deposition or electrodeposition. Traces are then cut via laser ablation.

MycelioTronics: Biodegradable Electronics Substrates From Fungi

E-waste is one of the main unfortunate consequences of the widespread adoption of electronic devices, and there are various efforts to stem the flow of this pernicious trash. One new approach from researchers at the Johannes Kepler University in Austria is to replace the substrate in electronics with a material made from mycelium skins.

Maintaining performance of ICs and other electronic components in a device while making them biodegradable or recyclable has proved difficult so far. The substrate is the second largest contributor (~37% by weight) to the e-waste equation, so replacing it with a more biodegradable solution would still be a major step toward a circular economy.

To functionalize the mycelial network as a PCB substrate, the network is subjected to Physical Vapor Deposition of copper followed by deposition of gold either by more PVD or electrodeposition. Traces are then cut via laser ablation. The resulting substrate is flexible and can withstand over 2000 bending cycles, which may prove useful in flexible electronics applications.

If you’re looking for more fun with fungi, check out these mycelia bricks, this fungus sound absorber, or this mycellium-inspired mesh network.

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Hackaday Links: August 21, 2022

As side-channel attacks go, it’s one of the weirder ones we’ve heard of. But the tech news was filled with stories this week about how Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” is actually a form of cyberattack. It sounds a little hinky, but apparently this is an old vulnerability, as it was first noticed back in the days when laptops commonly had 5400-RPM hard drives. The vulnerability surfaced when the video for that particular ditty was played on a laptop, which would promptly crash. Nearby laptops of the same kind would also be affected, suggesting that whatever was crashing the machine wasn’t software related. As it turns out, some frequencies in the song were causing resonant vibrations in the drive. It’s not clear if anyone at the time asked the important questions, like exactly which part of the song was responsible or what the failure mode was on the drive. We’ll just take a guess and say that it was the drive heads popping and locking.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: August 21, 2022”

Add Mycelium To Your Mesh Networks

In many parts of the world, days after a good rainfall, it’s fairly common to see various species of mushrooms popping up out of the ground. These mysterious organisms aren’t the whole story, though. The living being is a vast network of hidden fibers, called mycelium, spreading through the ground and into any other organic material it can colonize. Its air of mystery and its vast reach are the inspiration for entire Star Trek shows and, of course, projects like this LoRa-based mesh network called Mycelium.

Mycelium is the invention of [Catamine] and includes many novel features compared to more typical mesh networks. For one, it is intended to be used in low power applications to give users the ability to send messages over a distributed network rather than a centralized network like a cell phone service provider. For another, the messages are able to be encrypted and authenticated, which is not currently possible with other mesh networks such as APRS. The idea is that a large network of people with nothing more complicated than an ESP32, an antenna, and this software would be able to communicate securely in situations where a centralized network is not available, whether that is from something like a natural disaster or from a governmental organization disabling the Internet during a political upheval.

The mesh network is currently in active development, and while messages can not yet be sent, the network is able to recognize nodes and maintain a keybase. There are certainly plenty of instances where something like this would be useful as we’ve seen before from other (non-encrypted) LoRa-based network solutions which are built around similar principles.

Thanks to [dearuserhron] for the tip!

There’s A Fungus Among Us That Absorbs Sound And Does Much More

Ding dong, the office is dead — at least we hope it is. We miss some of the people, the popcorn machine, and the printer most of all, but we say good riddance to the collective noise. Thankfully, we never had to suffer in an open office.

For many of us, yours truly included, home has become the place where we spend approximately 95% of our time. Home is now an all-purpose space for work, play, and everything in between, like anxiety-induced online shopping. But unless you live alone in a secluded area and/or a concrete bunker, there are plenty of sound-based distractions all day and night that emanate from both inside and outside the house. Headphones are a decent solution, but wearing them isn’t always practical and gets old after a while. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print your own customized sound absorbers and stick them on the walls? Continue reading “There’s A Fungus Among Us That Absorbs Sound And Does Much More”

Adidas Going Natural With Mycelium Leather

Whether you are vegan or just want to try something new in the shoe department, Adidas will soon have your feet covered. They are currently working on a leather alternative made of mycelium, which is the network of fungal filament material that produces mushrooms, toadstools, truffles, and more. Hopefully they’re not using live mycelium, otherwise your shoes will grow mushrooms when they get wet like this mycelium canoe we saw a few weeks ago.

Adidas have really rooted themselves in sustainability over the past few years. They claim to have made 15 million pairs of shoes in 2020 out of recycled plastic waste collected from beaches and coastlines, and they’re shooting for 17 million pairs in 2021. The company started offering these in 2017, and they feature thread in the laces and other places that was spun from ocean plastic waste. Adidas are also using a lot of recycled polyester and are developing a new type of recycled cotton, according to Business Insider.

No use for mushroom shoes, canoes, or coffins (translated)? Everyone could probably use more insulation in their home. Why not grow your own?

Thanks to [Charles] for the mycelium coffin tip.

Mushroom Canoe Is Rooted In Nature

Mushrooms might be the most contested pizza topping after pineapple, but can you build a boat from pineapples? Probably not, but you can from mushrooms. Mushrooms, or rather their mycelium root systems, can be used for things like packaging, insulation, and furniture, and it could be the next thing in floatation, too. Just ask [Katy Ayers], a Nebraska college student who built an eight-foot canoe molded almost entirely of mycelium.

[Katy] got into mushrooms when she was tasked with researching solutions to climate change. She loves to fish and has always wanted a boat, so when she found out that mycelium are naturally buoyant and waterproof, she decided to try using it as a building material.

[Katy] floated the idea by the owner of a local mushroom company and they got to work, building a frame suspended in the air by a hammock-like structure. Then they covered the boat’s skeleton with spores and let it proliferate in a hot, humid growing room. Two weeks later, they had a boat made of live mycelium, which means that every time it goes out on the water, it spawns mushrooms. The total cost including tools was around $500. The boat experiment spawned even more mycelium projects. [Katy] has since experimented with making lawn chairs and landscaping bricks from mycelium.

Don’t want to wait to grow your own mycelium boat? You can build one out of stretch wrap, packing tape, and tree branches.

Thanks for the tip, [ykr300]!

Main image by Katy Ayers via NBC News