In the “Building On Mycelium” project, Avans University of Applied Sciences, HZ University of Applied Science and partners are investigating how locally available organic waste streams can be used to produce mycelium biocomposites, with properties that make them suitable for the construction sector. In this project the emphasis will be on (studying) the manufacture of furniture or interior panels.
The greatest challenge of this century is to turn our economy into an ecologically sustainable system. This can be done by significantly reducing the consumption of energy and raw materials. 40% of total European energy consumption and about 45% of CO2 emissions are related to the construction and use of buildings (EC, 2015), of which almost half embodies energy in materials. The construction sector is also responsible for 40% of raw material consumption worldwide.
Mycelium as a solution
A solution with a lot of potential is based on mycelium. Mycelium is the “root network” of mushrooms, which acts as a natural glue to bind biomass. Various organic residual flows such as straw, sawdust or other agricultural waste can be used as a nutrient medium. These mycelium composites were only invented ten years ago, but because of their durability and unique properties, there is already a lot of interest in the industry.
The production of these composites has a relatively low energy consumption, because mycelium grows at low temperatures (25-30 ° C). For example, the production of mycelium “foam” uses almost ten times less energy than the production of polystyrene foam (styrofoam). Other advantages are that mycelial biocomposites are completely natural, non-toxic, biological materials that can be grown locally and composted after use (Jones et al., 2018).
Avans has already carried out several initial studies that indicate promising possibilities for the development of mycelium composites based on local residual flows of biomass. The “Building on Mycelium” project now brings many more partners together, including processors of agricultural materials, designers, material producers and end users. The connecting factor is that all companies regard mycelium composites as a promising material and in this way can make high-quality use of their residual flows or use the materials for their company.
The leading question for the partners is to provide data on the material properties of these mycelial biocomposites to determine whether the composites are suitable for use in their applications. Therefore, in the project “Building on Mycelium” we will study the use of local agricultural residues in mycelium composites, test the different material properties, perform an initial evaluation of a design and analyze the economic and environmental aspects.
Avans University of Applied Sciences and the industrial partners will collaborate on this project with the microbiology department of Utrecht University and SME Mogu Srl (Italy), who are among the leading experts in the field of mycelial materials. Hogeschool Zeeland will supplement the consortium with knowledge about processing techniques.
“Building on Mycelium is co-financed by the SIA, part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). “