3D-printed mushroom roots "could be used to build houses"

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: designer Eric Klarenbeek, who displayed a chair made out of 3D-printed fungus at Dutch Design Week in October, says the technique could be used to create larger, more complex structures.

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Mycelium chair

Klarenbeek's Mycelium chair, which takes its name from the extensive threadlike root structure of fungi, combines organic matter with bioplastics to make a light and strong composite material that can be 3D-printed.

Segment of furniture made from 3D-printed fungus
Segment of chair made from a 3D-printed aggregate of fungus, powdered straw and water

"We adapted the 3D-printer and invented a way to print straw injected with mycelium. By infusing this mushroom it acts as a kind of glue so that all these straw parts [combine] together and as soon as you dry it you get a kind of cork material, which is all bound together," says Klarenbeek.

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Eric Klarenbeek with prototypes

The chair's exterior is also 3D-printed, but is made from a bioplastic, against which the mycelium root structure grows. Klarenbeek leaves the fungus to spread throughout the 3D-printed structure, reinforcing it in the process.

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Segment of Mycelium chair

"Our main purpose was to find a combination between the robot, or the machine, and to have these two work together to create a new material which could be applicable for any product," explains Klarenbeek.

Eric Klarenbeek interview on furniture made from 3D-printed fungus
Scale model of the Mycelium chair

He claims the material has many possible applications. "It could be a table, or a whole interior, and that's where it becomes interesting for me. It's really strong, solid, lightweight and insulating, so we could build a house!"

Eric Klarenbeek interview on furniture made from 3D-printed fungus
Research samples

The music featured in the movie is a track by Kobi Glas. You can listen to his music on Dezeen Music Project.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers
 is a year-long collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.