The power of mushrooms! How fungi can replace styrofoam, at Beakerhead #YYC

mushroom 4Beakerhead is Calgary’s celebration of science, art and engineering.  For five days, there are myriad events all over Calgary, from massive art installations, the Ted-style Talks, plus food/chemistry events and even engineering feats.

One of those is In/flux, an art installation that uses mushroom bricks as faux-construction material.

In/flux is created by two Calgary engineers, who designed and built a castle-style structure with moveable walls from mushroom bricks.

mushroom1What are “mushroom bricks”?  They’re the creation of U.S company Ecovative, which can grow and shape these bricks to take any form. Using agricultural fibres like corn husks, and hay or straw, they mix these fibres with mushroom spores, pack them into a mould, and allow the spores to grow.  They form what’s called mycelium. which is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like fibres. These fibres are very strong, meaning the bricks hold together well. After the mycelium fibres have filled every nook and cranny, the bricks are heated to stop the growing process. The bricks are theyn ready to use.

While the Beakerhead installation looks like a structure, the bricks aren’t structural at all.  They’re mainly used for packaging materials and insulation, so I guess you could say they’re not necessarily bricks either. The company has sold them to manufacturers to use to keep washing machines from moving in their transport crates, and as wall panels of eco-friendly insulation.

While the bricks will biodegrade when exposed to water or the elements, kept dry they’re stable indefinitely.

The In/Flux structure at the corner of Memorial Drive and 10 St NW is a beautiful example of art, science and engineering, and it’s meant to show off an alternative to styrofoam packaging.  Because with mushroom blocks, once you’re done with the package, you just toss the blocks into your composter.

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