Growing products from fungus could be the start of a "biotechnological revolution"
Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: Amsterdam designer Maurizio Montalti explains how biological organisms such as fungi could be harnessed to create new sustainable materials in this movie filmed in Eindhoven.
Montalti's studio Officina Corpuscoli is researching how fungal organisms can be used to produce alternatives to plastics.
"It's about envisaging a completely different paradigm in relation to production," Montalti says. "It's a paradigm based on cultivation."
Biologically produced materials can be "completely non-harmful," he claims. "Once disposed of they just become new nutrients for new life."
At Dutch Design Week, where this movie was filmed, he presented a series of plates, bowels and other vessels made from mycelium, the thread-like part of a fungus that usually exists underground.
"Mycelia could be considered the fungal roots," Montalti explains. "It consists of a very dense network of micro filaments."
With the right nutrients present, mycelium will grow in a range of different organic materials, such as straw or other forms of agricultural waste. When baked, the network of thread-like filaments is transformed into a very durable and waterproof material.
"It is able to hold great stresses when it comes to compression or tension," Montalti explains. "But one very interesting property relates to hydrophobicity. Most of these fungal organisms produce a membrane that renders them completely hydrorepellent."
It is this hydrophobic quality that makes the potential of mycelium-based materials so great, Montalti believes.
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"There are multiple applications for mycelium materials," he says. "I'm looking at the development of alternatives to textiles. You could imagine making shoes out of mycelium; you could imagine making raincoats."
Montalti is currently researching how mycelium-based materials could be produced affordably on an industrial scale and he believes it won't be long before consumer products will be on the market.
"I'm pretty confident in saying the next revolution will be the biotechnological revolution," he says. "We are just at the beginning of it, but we are already in full swing."
Dezeen and MINI Frontiers is an ongoing collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.
The music in the movie is a track called Family Music by Eindhoven-based hip hop producer Y'Skid.