Eco-Brick Building Puts Fun in Fungus

New activity at The Tech lets visitors build with mushroom material

Bookshelves and appliances. Vertical gardens and foot stools. Even homes!

There’s been a lot of talk about mushrooms at The Tech lately, and all the ways they can be used in sustainable manufacturing. Ideas are spreading like … well, a fungus.

Two young visitors get ready to pack their molds with mycelium to make mushroom bricks in the BioTinkering Lab.

The Exhibits and Educational Programs teams have spent months developing a related activity that will allow innovators of all ages to play with sustainable mushroom manufacturing as part of the new BioDesign Studio.

The process is simple but impressive. First, choose a 3D-printed plastic mold. Then stuff it with wood particles that have been inoculated with mushroom mycelium (the root structure of a mushroom), and then, the growth of a “mushroom brick” will begin. No trees are harmed in the making of the bricks, as the wood particles are an agricultural byproduct that would have just been thrown away.

“The world is really just starting to tap into the amazing potential of mycelium for manufacturing,” said Anja Scholze, The Tech’s biotech experience designer. “We love giving our visitors a chance to explore something so fresh.”

Several different mushroom bricks are on display in The BioTinkering Lab. Industry leaders are still experimenting with the process to make sustainable building materials.

In our mushroom bricks, the mycelium acts like natural glue that binds the material together. After it’s dried and baked, the brick stops growing and can be used as durable and organic material for furniture — or maybe even buildings. Mycelium products are an eco-friendly alternative to lumber because they grow so much faster than trees (and use agricultural waste). The brick-making process does take a few days, so you may not be able to admire your brick but you can examine those made by visitors before you.

Tables made with mushroom materials grown by MycoWorks will be part of BioDesign Studio, so come see how mycelium can be used in the real world. Participants in our workshop will also explore possibilities for the material. What would you make … or rather, grow?

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