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

A Lecture By A Fun Guy

Many people hear “fungus” and think of mushrooms. This is akin to hearing “trees” and thinking of apples. Fungus makes up 2% of earth’s total biomass or 10% of the non-plant biomass, and ranges from the deadly to the delicious. This lecture by [Justin Atkin] of [The Thought Emporium] is slightly shorter than a college class period but is like a whole semester’s worth of tidbits, and the lab section is about growing something (potentially) edible rather than a mere demonstration. The video can also be found below the break.

Let’s start with the lab where we learn to grow fungus in a mason jar on purpose for a change. The ingredient list is simple.

  • 2 parts vermiculite
  • 1 part brown rice flour
  • 1 part water
  • Spore syringe

Combine, sterilize, cool, inoculate, and wait. We get distracted when cool things are happening so shopping around for these items was definitely hampered by listening to the lecture portion of the video.

Continue reading “A Lecture By A Fun Guy”

Growing Your Own Insulation

The latest craze in revolutionary materials science is no longer some carbon nanotube, a new mysterious alloy, or biodegradeable plastic. It seems as though a lot of new developments are coming out of the biology world, specifically from mycologists who study fungi. While the jury’s still out on whether or not it’s possible to use fungi to build a decent Star Trek series, researchers have in fact been able to use certain kinds of it to build high-performing insulation.

The insulation is made of the part of the fungus called the mycelium, rather than its more familiar-looking fruiting body. The mycelium is a strand-like structure of fungus which grows through materials in order to digest them. This could be mulch, fruit, logs, straw, crude oil, or even live insects, and you might have noticed it because it’s often white and fuzzy-looking. The particular type of mycelium used here is extremely resistant to changes in temperature so is ideal for making insulation. As a bonus, it can be grown, not manufactured, and can use biological waste products as a growing medium. Further, it can grow to fit the space it’s given, and it is much less environmentally harmful than existing forms of insulation.

As far as performance is concerned, a reporter from the BBC tested it in an interesting video involving a frozen chocolate bar and a blowtorch, discovering also that the insulation is relatively flame-retardant. Besides insulation, though, there are many more atypical uses of fungi that have been discovered recently including pest control and ethanol creation. They can also be used to create self-healing concrete.

Thanks to [Michael] for the tip!

Photo of fungal mycelium: Tobi Kellner [CC BY-SA 3.0]