The concept of biodesign implies not only creating practically applicable biological concepts, but to challenge previous concepts to impress and capture imagination.
At Mycterials, we aim to expand on the one-sided strategies used to engineer mushrooms for functional design. Mycelium, or polymers of fungal hyphae, is an exciting sustainable and cost effective biomaterial. Mycelium is a natural source of chitin that forms dense polymer networks, which can be cultured into desired shapes and and engineered for specific material properties (Haneef et al., 2017). Growing bulks of mycelium in controlled environments and oven baking them can be used create highly durable materials (Mycoworks Homepage, 2018). However, the slow growth rate, unknown and unpredictable endurance of mycelium prevents its application in long term construction (Islam et al., 2017). Additionally, current mycelium preparation methods are limited by the size of the moulds and ovens used. Past efforts to expand the mycelium tool box have been limited to varying growth substrates and genetic engineering (Haneef et al., 2017; Mycoworks Homepage, 2018).
We will introduce two new creative assets: symbiotic bacteria and iron particles. For the bacterial symbiosis, we chose cyanobacteria due to the possible exchange of useful nutrients and carbon to increase mycelium growth (Lumini et al., 2006; Frey-Klett et al., 2011). Then we hope to give mycelium metallic properties by growing mycelia hyphae using metal as a structural lattice (Jennings, et all 1984), which will allow magnetic manipulation and self baking through magnetic heat resonance (Grants et al., 2017). This method allows to create sustainable biomaterials as food waste (e.g. used coffee powder) and recycled scrap iron could be used.
We categorised three groups during our Mycterial testing experiment (Figure 1).
We chose to illustrate metallic properties such as magnetism with a prototype, which is both a proof of concept as well as an art piece.
We used magnetic levitation to make a block of mycelium with embedded magnet to float above a plain surface. We used a floating magnetic globe for spare parts for creating display model and previously grown mycelia cube (Figure 3). Simple combination of two dipole magnets placed opposite each other generates enough force to lift the mycelium block. Achieving stability is a more challenging task – however, this problem can be solved by using electromagnets to balance out the stationary magnet (Hones et al, 1995).
This contactless metal melting approach could therefore be applied to fire and solidify the mycelium mass via induction heating. This could be used to create durable constructs for building sustainable and sturdy architectural designs of previously impossible shapes. Furthermore, the synthetic bacterial symbiosis could improve the growth process, capture carbon from the atmosphere. However, further research is needed to map out the exact relationship between mycelium and bacteria, to test the impact on growth rate and durability. Additionally, as seen from our own experiment, external contamination can hamper mycelium growth. This could be avoided by creating the material in a sterile environment with controlled temperature.
(Post by Fernanda Bolaños, Ivan Shpurov, Laura Turpeinen & Luis Guzmán Martinez )
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