Fungi in Flux
Master's Thesis | Rhode Island School of Design, 2022-23
This research investigates bio-design and bio-fabrication of functional objects from mycelium and local waste to contribute to a resilient future.
Today, we produce a staggering amount of waste and the only thing it stays out of is conversation.
While many businesses are adopting circular and closed loop practices to a profitable turn, there are still some missing links in how we deal with waste and what happens to materials over longer periods of time. The world generates 2.01 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33 percent of that—extremely conservatively—not managed in an environmentally safe manner (World Bank). Scientists also warn that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This includes microplastics which create additional concerns with choking hazards for marine life and entering the food and water streams consumed by humans. E-waste and smartphones are one of the fastest growing waste streams accounting for 40% of the composition as plastic. And as compared to other waste streams a third of food that is produced gets wasted - amounting to 1.3 billion tons. The construction sector uses concrete and metals at an even larger scale, one of the largest contributors to pollution and resource extraction.
Designing an eco-friendly system, this project sources local waste from makerspaces and eateries and combines it with fungal strains that bind the material into a structure. My formula for making biodegradable objects explores applications such as raw material bricks for prototyping, interior objects for cafes, and custom forms.
To maintain optimum conditions to grow materials, I built and assembled semi-automated growth chambers to streamline the process. Cultivating mycelium objects is a multi-stage process including mold making, bio-fabrication and post-processing. A wide range of local waste streams such as coffee grounds, sawdust and paper waste were combined with mycelium strains with varying processes and conditions to get to the most effective and reproducible material solution.
Mycelium Molding Workshop
The method of growing mycelium objects was tested through a workshop during a Winter 23 course: Mold(ing)
Sol Koffler Gallery, 2023