Materials of the Future: Mycelium

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Materials of the Future: Mycelium

Next-generation materials, such as mycelium, chitin, lignin, and algae have eco-friendly credentials, offer a promising alternative to traditional materials and are likely to become increasingly prevalent in a range of industries.

Incorporating these materials into design, packaging and products has a big potential of reducing the environmental impact of production and showing a commitment to sustainability.

Our research explores ways to replace traditional fabrics with fabrics grown from mycelium. 

The mycelium is the vegetative part of fungi that contains a network of fine, tube-like fibres that are used to create a variety of materials.

The type of substrate used to inoculate the fungi greatly influences the properties of the final material. Some popular techniques for producing mycelium-based materials include fungal foams and leather-like materials made from the pre-colonised lignocellulosic substrate, such as sawdust.

The parameters of the growth process, such as temperature, humidity, light levels, and gas exchange, must be carefully regulated in order to produce the desired result. The growth process can range from 5-42 days, and the final product can be processed further by re-growing and applying natural resins, or coatings.

The mechanical properties of the mycelium materials can be influenced by the type of inoculum, substrate, and environmental conditions during growth, but the most important elements are the fungal strain and substrate selection.

As a part of our ongoing mycelium research, we collaborated with Traum Inc to create a visualisation of the root fibre growth. The film takes you on a journey through the fascinating world of mycelium networks brought to life by AI.

To visualise the intricate process of training these networks in the lab, Thomas leveraged Stable Diffusion to train the AI to create hundreds of versions of virtual mushrooms.

The imagery reflects how the process would take place in the laboratory environment, which requires diligent experimentation to find the right material texture and density.

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