Movie: growing new materials and products from fungus

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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.

Bowl made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Bowl made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli

Montalti's studio Officina Corpuscoli is researching how fungal organisms can be used to produce alternatives to plastics.

Vessels made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Vessels made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli

"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."

Vessels made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Vessels made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli

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.

Bowl made out of mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Bowl made out of mycelium with fruiting fungi by Officina Corpuscoli

"Mycelia could be considered the fungal roots," Montalti explains. "It consists of a very dense network of micro filaments."

Fruiting mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Fruiting mycelium

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.

Fruiting mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Fruiting mycelium

"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."

Textlile made from mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Textlile made from mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli

It is this hydrophobic quality that makes the potential of mycelium-based materials so great, Montalti believes.



"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."

Textlile sample made from mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli
Textlile sample made from mycelium by Officina Corpuscoli

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."

Maurizio Montalti of Officina Corpuscoli
Maurizio Montalti of Officina Corpuscoli

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.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers