the mass of interwoven filamentous hyphae that forms especially the vegetative portion of the thallus of a fungus and is often submerged in another body (as of soil or organic matter or the tissues of a host)
Recently, I’ve been looking into the work of Philip Ross, Ecovative Design, Eric Klarenbeek, and many other designers who create artwork, furniture, and buildings out of mycelium, which is the vegetative part of fungus. Mycelium grows in a complex network of thin rootlike fibers, and when dried, has certain material qualities that are remarkably suitable for building applications (including strength comparable to concrete, fire-resistance, buoyancy, and water-resistance.) The bricks above were made in brick-shaped molds, by introducing mycelium to agricultural waste and allowing the mycelium to digest and grow around the waste until a solid structure is formed. The bricks were then dried before any mushrooms or spores were able to grow.
What’s most exciting about this material is its seemingly endless applications, including replacement for engineered wood, plastics, foam, leather, and more. These raw materials can be used by artists, designers, and manufacturers to completely rethink the products we use on a daily basis. Some current applications include compostable packaging, clothing, furniture, outdoor products (buoys), and building materials.
Here’s a video I found that shows some current research being done at Utrecht University in the Netherlands on the material qualities of mycelium, as well as product design (with the use of digital fabrication) by artist Eric Klarenbeek: Fungus: The Plastic of the Future
Additionally, here is a time-lapse video from students at Syracuse University growing coffee cups out of mycelium and wood chips as a replacement for styrofoam cups: Mycelium Time Lapse. In this particular video, shellac was used on the final result to make a water-proof product. (The material on its own is only water-repellent.)