Material Computation with Myco- Materials

Phillip Gough, Anastasia Globa, Dagmar Reinhardt


A circular economy is needed, in addition to addressing atmospheric CO2, for humans to live sustainably with Earth’s ecosystems. A sustainable economy will mean that economic activities could continue forever. However, many current patterns of consumption and production in our current linear economy are unsustainable. Through sustainable and circular economic models, value can be added to wood or paper-based waste to create new markets and opportunities, such as by using this unwanted material as a substrate to grow myco-materials: composites based on fungi. Myco-materials are formed by mycelia; the roots of fungi that colonize and degrade lignocellulosic material, such as a fallen tree in the wild, or a compost pile, but also industrial materials including paper, cardboard and timber waste. This research uses a locally endemic, edible species of mushroom, Ganoderma Steyaertanum (known as Australian reishi mushroom), to bind together a substrate as the fungus grows, so that it can form a strong but lightweight myco-material. We extend a biodesign approach to design, applying the natural abilities and behaviours of a living organism to the design problem, through computational methods, generating forms that demonstrate the capabilities of the material at the growth stage, to identify applications of the material. This project has described an investigation into how the growth of mycelia can impact computational design of myco-material composites. Our study showed that with a single substrate, and consumer-level fabrication equipment, consistent results can be achieved. For a circular, post-carbon future, myco-materials demonstrate a clear potential to give new value to cardboard, as a showcase for domestic waste material that is ultimately suitable for composting rather than disposal at its end of life. More research is required in the domain of growth behaviour and simulations, to which these case studies have contributed through a tracking of weight, volume, density, and moisture. Computational simulation coupled with robotic 3D printing can further advance the fabrication of customized modules onsite or in a specific local context, including post fabrication tracking of behaviour, including maintenance. Phillip Gough Anastasia Globa Dagmar Reinhardt