A new composite material has been made from an amalgamation of mushroom roots and agricultural waste. Called Mycobond, the material has begun to be used as packing material in shipped products around the USA. The greatest advantage of mycobond is that compared to conventional packing material, only one-eighth the energy is required to produce it and it generates only one-tenth of the carbon dioxide that traditional packing material like foam does.
The new material is organic, which could raise concerns about its safety, but this issue already being dealt with. Undergraduates at the Rensselaer Polytechinic Institute – Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer are developing a method to sterilize the agricultural waste that is used in Mycobond.
Instead of using steam, which is the traditional way, they make use of the anti-microbial powers of materials like cinnamon bark oil, oregano oil, thyme oil and lemongrass oil. So how is mycobond produced? The vegetative part of the fungus usually grows around and digests the material that is used as agricultural starter. Usually this is cotton seed or wood fiber. Customized plastic structures are used to ensure that the mycobond grows in the desired shape and form.
After the material is fully formed, it is put through the sterilization process. The long term objective is to try to ensure that the whole process can be available for purchase as a kit, so that businesses, or shipping agencies or even the ordinary man can grow their own green packing material.
McIntyre and Bayer are sure that this innovative idea will be much in demand, and have started their own company Ecovative Design of Green Island, N.Y. to enable the idea to grow into the production phase. The company has received financial backing from organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.