Mycelium is the network of all the threads of a fungus, also called the root of the mushroom. The insulating and moisture-absorbing properties of mycelium are very good. A lot of textiles are lacking these. Mycelium is only used in solid state, hence the combination with textiles, with the best of both materials being used, a kind of Mycelium textile or mycoTEX.
By exploring to what extent we can control the growth of mycelium, I would be able to give more or less flexibility to this combination. Can we manipulate the mycelium or the substrate in a way that it grows well in some places and does not grow in other places? Could we use certain textile yarns as a nutrient medium and other yarns as a base material where the mycelium will grow on? Should it be a combination of mycelium with a classic textile or can the mycelium itself be the textile, with the insulating and moisture-absorbing properties? Also, mycelium has the ability to come back alive after drying. Is it therefore possible, after using the object, to put it in the ground so it decompose and thus reducing waste?
– How does mycelium react on a polymer, cellulose (cotton, jute) and protein (wool, silk) based textile, where does it grow (better) and can we exclude or add certain properties.
– Can we use a textile combining different yarn qualities so that the mycelium has a nutrient medium in certain areas and a ground material in other areas? For example a warp of polymer and a weft combining polymer and protein?
– Can we control the growth of mycelium in such a way so that in extra damp places the mycelium will grow faster?
– It is necessary to have a matrix of textile fabric or it can the mycelium itself be the textile and will the textile act only as a feeding ground? Can we thus give new life to old textiles (recycling of textiles)?
– How can we increase the moisture absorbing capacity?
– Will the use of 3D fabric (spacer fabric) as a matrix allow the mycelium to grow between 2 layers that are stuck in certain spots. A combination of different materials could be interesting, whereby the properties of these different materials can be combined. Can one side be moisture-absorbent and the other side moisture resistant?
– What is the minimum thickness we need to still be able to use the insulating properties of mycelium?
– What happens when the mycelium continues to grow on the textile? Do we have to stop growth at a certain time?
– Can we give the endproduct back to nature after usage (composting)?
The Myco Design Lab started of with an extensive workshop giving the first instructions for the Open Call participants to start working with mycelium. Both the University of Utrecht team as Maurizio Montalti were there with instructions, technical explanations and samples to try out. We learn how to grow our own schizophyllum.
The following tests I did exploring the different kind of substrates and way of growing:
– growing mycelium with natural fibers - growing mycelium with different kind of knitted substrates like wool, linen, cotton, silk, polymer, etc. both in 100% as well as mixtures of these
– growing mycelium with polymer spacer fabrics in different tightnesses
– growing mycelium in a 3D printed star shaped petri-dish
I have used pure mycelium on agar agar and a maceraat of mycelium with minimal medium in order to grow mycelium with the different substrates.
The initial findings were not about the different substrates used, but about the structure of these materials. Mycium does not like to grow on a tight knitted or woven fabric. It needs space and openness to grow. That gave the next option; testing Mycelium on a piece of fabric with open and tight pieces. The first batch of samples was grown for a month before drying. This was not enough to see if Mycelium would actually decompose the fabric. Following this was to grow Mycelium in different textile substrates for a longer period. Unfortunately Mycelium is not using the textiles as a food source, so it stopped growing. To keep the growth going, maceraat had to be added at certain times. After growing the plates more than six months, the growth was still not good.
The Universiteit Utrecht has developed a way of making floating mats of Mycelium. When growing and still wet, these mats are quite flexible and fragile, and when they have dried they become a brittle, quite breakable plate. However to be able be used outside a lab, the Mycelium needs to be dried. In a wet state, it is not workable and when dry it can no longer be infected. How can Mycelium remain flexible after drying? Testing different kind of substrates on pieces of floating mat in a wet and in a dry state have been done, finding a fluid that would make it more flexible. Floating mat pieces were rubbed with vinegar, oil, etc. and after a lot of testing I found a way to remain the flexibility.
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