Besides being delicious marinated on a grill and the ability for certain ones to cause hallucinogenic episodes, mushrooms can now also be used as highly functional car parts. In a recent article from CNN Money, Ford announced they are working with an eco-design company to develop fungus-based, biodegradable foam for automotive bumpers, side doors and dashboards.

Started in 2007 in New York, Ecovative Design produces eco-friendly materials for use in organic packaging and insulation. They utilize fungal mycelium, which are the roots of mushrooms, as a resin to hold agricultural byproducts, such as corn and oat husks, together to create a rigid material. The result is a solid, foam-like material that the company has already begun marketing for packaging (with companies like Dell) and furniture.

Ecovative technicians combine the husks and the mycelium in trays of various shapes and sizes. The trays spend five days in a darkened warehouse, long enough for the mushrooms to work their magic, before the rooted mixture is cooked and dried. This results in a fireproof, waterproof foam solid, which will decompose in one month buried in soil.

There could potentially be a large number of other applications for this material because it can be grown in any size or shape. Furthermore, it costs about as much as Styrofoam. Hopefully in the near future, it could replace the Styrofoam packaging materials that are used in way too many consumer products and take up a ridiculous amount of space in landfills. You could be drinking your morning coffee from a mushroom cup.

If Ecovative can grow their material to be uniform enough to satisfy safety requirements of the car industry, it could replace petroleum-based plastics that are currently used for car parts. The damaged or used car parts can then just be buried. Ford is hoping to replace around 30 pounds of the petroleum-based foam in each car with eco-friendly alternatives.

Ecovative Designs is researching more applications for mycelium. Their newest crops of clients include two computer manufacturers, a cosmetic maker and a wine distributor.

How about a mushroom helmet? One step closer to being a Super Mario Bro’s character…
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Nick Haneiko

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