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Mushrooms in the walls: the potential of mycomatterials in construction

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Mycommaterials can notably take forms comparable to leather, cardboard, styrofoam or bricks.

  • Jennifer Magher (View profile)Jennifer Magher

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Mushroom-based materials , called mycomaterials, spread across the border between microbiology and construction. Still little used, particularly due to the absence of industrial production, mycomaterals would make it possible to reduce the environmental footprint of the building industry.

According to Geoffroy Renaud, student researcher at the Plant Biology Research Institute of the University of Montreal and founder of Mycélium Remédium Mycotechnologies, mycommaterials meet some of the needs of the construction industry. We want eco-responsible elements. The insulation that is polymerized by the mycelium […] can [eliminate] a series of residues on the construction sites themselves, he says.

The mycelium is the underground mycological network of the mushroom. It is made up of countless numbers of tiny white filaments, the hyphae.

Its main function is to obtain food from the soil. The mycelium secretes enzymes that break down organic matter so it can consume it.

Geoffroy Renaud explains that mushrooms can be cultivated to make materials comparable to leather, for example.

The underground network, the mycelium, can for its part be used in two ways. The first, without substrate, makes it possible to obtain mycomaterials similar to cardboard or, by deploying the aerial side of the mycelium, to styrofoam.

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The second, by mixing the mycelium with a substrate such as sawdust, hemp fiber or coffee grounds, makes it possible to obtain panels or bricks which can be used in construction, in particular as thermal or acoustic insulation.

The characteristics of these materials depend greatly on inputs, indicates Geoffroy Renaud, who himself is in the process of growing the covering of the walls of his offices.

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Panels composed of mycelium, which feed on an input such as hemp, are taking their first steps in the field of construction .

To make the walls of his offices, he finely grinds organic materials which he mixes with water. Subsequently, we will put them in contact with a fungal culture. Depending on the combinations, we will wait 3 to 20 days for colonization, he explains.

Anything that can burn [and] anything that is composted can serve as food for mycelium, indicates Geoffroy Renaud.

What is interesting about mycomaterials is that we can deal with the three major sources of problematic residues: construction, textile and agri-food waste.< /p>A quote from Geoffroy Renaud, research student at the Plant Biology Research Institute of UdeM

Everything is produced in a mold to give the desired shape to the product. This object will then be unmolded, then cooked to annihilate the fungal organism so that it is no longer alive, continues Geoffroy Renaud. The final product is now ready to be installed on the walls.

Joseph Dahmen, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia's school of architecture, says the majority of mycomaterials used today are cooked to stop the growth of the mycelium.

He is interested, for his part, in the living potential of these materials. We could imagine a material that would become dynamic, adaptable, so that we could give it a different resistance. It continues to grow, so we can encourage that growth or stop it based on need, he suggests.

The expression ‘grow like a mushroom’ is accurate. They grow very quickly. […] We can match them to the unique environmental considerations of where we want to use them.

A quote from Joseph Dahmen, assistant professor at the School of Architecture UBC

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While mushroom-based materials are often cooked to prevent deformation, researchers at the University of British Columbia are interested in how “living” mycomaterials can vary so that they adapt to an environment. evolving.

In the case of living or inanimate mycommaterials, widespread adoption is not imminent, according to researchers.

We are only just beginning to understand the potential of these materials, says Joseph Dahmen. We want to make sure that the materials we use in buildings are safe for human health and from a structural point of view, he specifies.

Geoffroy Renaud adds that there is currently no general theory of mycomaterials, in the same way as for concrete, steel or wood. When we characterize materials, what part comes down to the presence of the fungus? […] What part belongs to inputs?

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The properties of mycomaterials used in construction vary depending on the input used, whether for example hemp or sawdust. bois.

He believes that cultural dissonance also needs to be reassessed.

We have been told all our lives that mushrooms are dangerous for homes.

A quote from Geoffroy Renaud, student researcher at the Plant Biology Research Institute of UdeM

According to Geoffroy Renaud, establish loops of x27;circular economy which recycles residues, in particular by marketing the resulting finished products, is one of the solutions to facilitate the adoption of mycommaterials.

With information fromDavid Ball

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