Bioremediation & Fabrication with Mycelium
Research, Material Study
Jan 2022

This research project, titled Myceliation, takes a dive into the wonders of the fungi kingdom and their role as bio-remediators and fabricators. Bioremediation is the treatment of pollutants or waste by the use of microorganisms (such as bacteria) that break down undesirable substances. Myco-remediation describes fungi’s ability to bio-remediate. Most fungi like to feed on cellulose-based substrates and as they feed, they excrete enzymes that catalyze the breakdown the reaction of long polymer chains into monomers into their single elements. Many species have been discovered to remediate toxic substances such as crude oil, polyurethane, and polyethylene. and other petroleum-based plastics. Some fungi, like Reishi, are known to grow fast and form a dense myco-rhizal network that can be used to make myco-composites and pure myco materials that are now being introduced into the architecture, packaging, and apparel industries. I developed two educational card decks, the Myceliation Myco-remediation Cards and the Myceliation Application Cards, with the intention to teach others about fungi's ability to degrade plastic and other toxic pollutants and to grow as a material for design applications. I worked with Roberto Broce to organize two Myceliation workshops where we were able to put the cards to use in a group activity.

Many scientific studies have proved that a variety of fungi species can degrade a wide variety of toxic substances. It is widely understood that you can train fungi species to eat (& degrade) certain toxic substances by weaning them off their more preferred diet and onto the toxic diet. In the Myceliation Myco-remediator Card deck I include 17 fungi species cards, each of which has been proven to degrade 1 or more of the 12 toxic substances which I presented in petri dishes during the workshop. We asked the workshop participants to try to pair the fungi species with the toxic substance that they can degrade. Although the activity is difficult to succeed at without advanced knowledge of fungi, the activity encourages the participants to learn about the diversity of the fungi kingdom and the wide range of toxic substances that they can degrade. During the workshop activity, the answers were written on separate cards hidden below the toxic substances. I created a second version of the a deck, visible in the images above and below, with the answers visible on the cards for exhibition purposes.

The cards are openly available for download and for educational use. It is important however to understand that much of the research in the field of myco-remediation is nascent and new findings are coming out all the time. The cards do not include the full breadth of the existing myco-remediators, instead just a small selection that were mentioned in research articles available on Research Gate and Science Direct. I encourage suggestions on edits and additions that are worth including to future version of this card deck.

In collaboration with Roberto Broce and Annah Ololade Sangosanya, we set up some experiments to try to observe two different fungi species–Pleurotus Ostreatus (oyster mushrooms) and Pestalotiopsis Microspora–degrade a number of different toxins: OXO petroleum-based “biodegradable” plastic bags, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) plastic bags, Polystyrene (PS) foam, Polyurethane (PU) foam, and synthetic textile waste and denim textile waste. To perform the experiments we prepared a petri dish with a sterilized cellulose based substrate for the mycelium to feed on and added the toxic substance to the petri dish. We hypothesized that the mycelium would start to eat the toxic substance as the cellulose substrate began to run low. We did these experiments in stages and monitored the growth of the mycelium over the course of weeks and sometimes months.Roberto Broce's and my experiments focused on degrading the different plastics listed above while Annah Ololade Sangosanya's experiments focused on the degradation of textile waste. We displayed some of our experiments (see images below) at the group exhibition, Symbiatípico.

Mycelium materials are emerging in a variety of different industries such as, packaging, interior design, apparel, architecture. We see them appearing as a regenerative alternative to leather, acoustic panels, insulation, flooring, and even coffins. The Myceliation Application Cards show 25 of the most successful examples of how designers, architects, researchers and companies are growing fungi species into previously unthinkable creations.

The cards are openly available for download and for educational use. It's important to note that this deck only includes a small selection of mycelium projects and new and exciting uses of mycelium materials are being created constantly. I encourage others to contact me about projects that are worth being added to a future version of this card deck.