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July 25, 2018

Bricks Made of Fungi! | Javier Syquia | BFA Graphic Design & BA Chemistry 2021

by jsyquia

We did it – we made a brick completely out of fungal mycelia and disposed wood chips!

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The process to get produce such a brick is actually doable for most individuals at home! Though, it took me and a few other members of my team quite a while to figure out… Here’s how we did it:

First, we started with growing plates of mycelium on Potato Dextrose Yeast Agar, or PDYA. This particular mushroom is Ganoderma; we cut a small piece of it from a fully grown mushroom, and plated it on the PDYA to start the mycelium growth. After about 5 days, the whole plate of PDYA should be covered in this white, fluffy material which is the fungal mycelia. This acts as the “roots” of fungi that gather all the necessary nutrients for growth. If the mycelia were then provided with enough nutrients and access to oxygen, the fungus will actually begin to form the fruiting bodies of mushrooms that we are all familiar with.

Though, the mycelia can grow on most things found in a household kitchen, such as used coffee grounds, cooked rice, flour, quinoa, etc.

Next, the mycelia on the plates are chopped up, and placed in a plastic bag with wood chips, some flour (to give the mycelia more nutrients to grow), and some water.

Below are four bags of the fungi with the wood chips on Day 1 of growth.

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These bags are then kept in a dark area for 5 days to grow. After 5 days, the wood chips should be covered with the white, fluffy, mycelia.

We now have our foundation for making new materials! This is then mixed a bit more, and more flour is added to allow the mycelia to grow even more thus strengthening the material. After being placed in molds, we let the mycelia grow for 5 more days. After this, the wood chips should be completely covered in the mycelium, and the material is now baked at 100 degrees celcius to effectively kill the fungus, and to strengthen the material. If the material is not baked and the mycelium is still alive, the bricks may actually begin creating fruiting bodies of mushrooms, which happened with one of our bricks that was exposed with enough oxygen. Though unintentional, this provides insight into the potential of growing edible mushrooms from of walls… wild!

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We also grew the mycelium in some old cardboard boxes, as the mycelium is able to eat through cardboard and effectively become the shape of the box itself.

The white material on the outside of the cardboard box and on the inside of its lid is the mycelium eating the cardboard. If this were left for about a month to grow, it would completely consume the cardboard and take its form. This shows great potential for using old, discarded wood chips and cardboard boxes to create a material that is as strong as wood.

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Now that we have successfully grown this material out of fungus into something that can essentially take the form of any mold that we create, our team’s next goal is to propose how this can actually be implemented on Mars as a habitat for humans.

We are currently exploring the use of cyanobacteria (which is essentially algae) to feed the fungi, and provide it with the necessary Oxygen. This would eliminate the need for taking wood chips to Mars as the habitat itself grows.

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I’m thrilled to see how this project continues to grow, and to explore how NASA may implement this self-growing material on Mars.

Lastly; this is a graphic I made for our team inspired by Mycelium growth! Looking forward to talk more about what it’s like to design within the STEM field for my next post. Till next time~

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