Canadian researchers use mushroom building blocks

We cut them into thin slices for pizza, crumbled into a salad and stew, but mushrooms are also used as a building material.

Researchers constructed six public benches in Canada using bricks made from a mixture of oyster mushroom spores and sawdust.

These bricks were created by researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in search of environmentally friendly building materials. They believe that mushrooms can be widely used for indoor thermal insulation in North America and as a biodegradable structural alternative.

However, they are not the first to use mushrooms in construction. In 2014, Arup, a engineering and design consulting firm with a head office in the UK, presented a tower in New York, for the construction of which mushrooms were used.

Both projects used mycelium biocomposite.As a result, more reliable materials similar to polystyrene foam were obtained.

At the University of British Columbia, researchers followed these five steps to make bricks:

  1. Alder sawdust is sterilized, mixed with biogenic substances, and then oyster mushroom spores are injected into them on the local mushroom farm.
  2. Oyster mushroom (roots of the fungus) is left in sawdust for two weeks, so that they grow, and then transferred to the greenhouse at the University of British Columbia.
  3. A mixture of sawdust and mycelium is crushed in a shredder, and then put in a form.
  4. After five days, the molds are removed, and the bricks from the mycelium biocomposite are wrapped in plastic wrap to stimulate the growth of chitin.
  5. After drying, you can make benches out of bricks and cover them with colorless paint.

See also: Arup robots will help save the Sydney Opera House

According to the University of British Columbia, this project dates back to 2014, when Joe Damen, Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Landscape Design and his work and life partner, Amber Fried-Ximenez, from the Department of Design and Technology at the University of Art and Design named after Emily Carr waited for her second child.They worked on an architectural installation made from recycled polystyrene blocks, which is not the most favorable material when it occurred to them to explore more environmentally friendly options.

“Amber could not be near the substance, as it was very toxic,” recalls Damen, showing the greenhouse where the bricks for the benches were made. “It made me think that you need to find a more natural material.”

Canadian researchers use mushroom building blocks

Damen and Fried-Jimenez worked together with students and university staff to come up with a method for producing mycelium biocomposite using two regional products: oyster spores and alder sawdust.

To eliminate the deficiency in size — a mycelium biocomposite can contaminate forms and bacteria if they are more than half a meter thick — Damen developed a new process that was inspired by a wasp nest found in an empty greenhouse where the project was to go.

“I was fascinated by the cellular structure because it is an effective method of occupying space,” he said, holding a nest in his hand to show the dense grid of hexagonal tanks.“This structure is spatially efficient.”

Having made a hole in the center of each block of the mycelium biocomposite, Damen was not only able to produce larger objects, but also provided a place in the benches for the ripening of mushrooms. “People can see them, but they will not worry that they will fall on their clothes when they sit down,” he notes. Damen said that the fact that the fruits of the mushroom "tasty" was a consolation when the growth process was going in the wrong direction.

See also: Arup joins the work on the project “Dutch wind wheel”

Perhaps the greatest potential of mycelium biocomposite is its potential as a heater for premises.

“Their biggest use in the end is to use it in architecture and construction,” said Damen. “The average lifetime of commercial buildings in New York is 40 years. If we can find building materials that will add positive value to the ecosystem during destruction, we will get a completely new paradigm in the approach to buildings in our time, when we demolish them long before they wear out.

Damen also predicts that the mycelium biocomposite will replace polystyrene in many of its other functions, from packaging to building insulation.

“Polyfoam is a material that functions only for a short time as a packaging material, and then it spends hundreds of years, if not thousands, in a landfill,” he noted. For the production of biocomposite, mycelium not only requires less energy, it also completely decomposes when composted, and helps decompose other materials in the waste stream, making them available to other organisms.

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