Following the news in November last year that Ecovative Design had invested $10 million into researching the mycelium fungus, the biotech start-up has announced that it is already producing a wide variety of incredible products ranging from bacon to plastic and leather alternatives, to woodchip material, to shoes.
But what is Mycelium?
Mycelium is part of the fungi kingdom and is the network of threads, called hyphae, from which mushrooms grow. Not all mycelia fruit mushrooms, depending on the environmental conditions, but all mushrooms come from mycelia.
Mycelia are most prevalent in fields, forests, and heavily wooded areas. Its hyphae, a network of web-like structures that form mycelium, secrete enzymes to break down food sources to be used by the organism. There are some mycelia that span over thousands of acres and some that are microscopic.
We are just beginning to tap the potential of mycelium in a variety of applications beyond their natural environment. Researchers and engineers have begun testing ways to use this versatile material and draw inspiration from its unique qualities to build and create better medicines, materials, biofuels, and many other products that we use in our everyday life.
Mycelium can be used to make building materials fire-resistant, stronger, and lighter. It can be used in the fashion industry to mimic the look, texture, and utility of leather. In some cases, it can even be used as a bonding agent for building materials, such as brick.
Mycelium is an eco-friendly, sustainable, and renewable resource. Because of its inherent properties, it can be recycled and regrown time and time again. With many industries in search of more sustainable solutions, mycelium provides a world of endless possibilities.