Shroom to Grow: Home-Grown Insulation Gets Fungi


Photo credit: palestrina55

Aren't mushrooms grand, not to mention multitalented? You can subsist on them, lubricate your chainsaw with them, and use them as sustainable, fire-retardant insulation—which would come in really handy, we suppose, if you were trapped in a log cabin in the dead of winter and there was a psycho pyromaniac killer pawing at your door. But we digress.

Greensulate is an organic, fire-resistant board made of water, flour, oyster mushroom spores, and perlite, which is a mineral blend found in potting soil. Creators Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre hope to bring their product to market once they're able to conduct additional research with more-sophisticated equipment and a better work space."We've been growing the material under our beds," McIntyre tells the AP, adding that they've applied for a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

The inventors are young— Bayer is only 21 and McIntyre, 22. They graduated in May from RPI with double majors in mechanical engineering and product design and innovation.

"I think it has a lot of potential, and it could make a big difference in people's lives," says RPI Professor Burt Swersy, whose Inventor's Studio course inspired the product's creation. "It's sustainable, and enviro-friendly, it's not based on petrochemicals and doesn't require much energy or cost to make it."

The product will be able to hold its own alongside most insulation brands on the market, according to Bayer and McIntyre. A 1-inch-thick sample of the perlite-mushroom composite has an R-value (a measure of a substance's ability to resist heat flow) of 2.9. Commercially produced fiber glass insulation typically have R-values between 2.7 and 3.7 per inch of thickness, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Mushroom insulation

Photo credit: Mike Groll, AP

The AP describes how you can grow your own 1-inch-thick panel of insulation:

Here's how it works: A mixture of water, mineral particles, starch and hydrogen peroxide are poured into 7-by-7-inch molds and then injected with living mushroom cells. The hydrogen peroxide is used to prevent the growth of other specimens within the material.

Placed in a dark environment, the cells start to grow, digesting the starch as food and sprouting thousands of root-like cellular strands. A week to two weeks later, a 1-inch-thick panel of insulation is fully grown. It's then dried to prevent fungal growth, making it unlikely to trigger mold and fungus allergies, according to Bayer. The finished product resembles a giant cracker in texture.

"It really allows for a myriad of uses," says McIntyre, adding that he and Bayer envision modifying the product to create structural panels that can be grown and assembled onsite to build sustainable homes. :: USA Today

See also: :: Can Mushrooms Lubricate Your Chainsaw, Feed Your Dog, and Save The World?, :: Japanese Mushrooms Found To Yield Natural Rubber, and :: Shitake Mushrooms make Gourmet Biofuel