Mycelium Based Packaging? How Fungi Is Gradually Taking Over the World

A project conducted by Ashley Alcantara in Dr. Grella's research course.

Ashley Alcantara

Oyster mushrooms growing on bulk casing mix substrate. (Ashley Alcantara)

Have you ever wondered if the world could go back to its pollutionfree state? Is this even possible with how our world is at present? Surprisingly, it is possible if we look to science for the answers. In recent research and experimentation, scientists, engineers, and artists have turned to Pleurotusostreatus, or oyster mushrooms, to solve our plastic pollution problems. In order to do this, mycelium (which is the root structure of oyster mushrooms) is used to create biodegradable packaging and a series of other products ranging from leather, clothing, furniture, insulation, and building structures.  

Usually, when you think of a mushroom, you picture a tiny organism that grows in shaded areas that you can find in your backyard. However, despite its small size, oyster mushrooms have made groundbreaking research in the science world. Essentially with the research that I am conducting – which is to cultivate biodegradable mycelium based packaging – I have discovered the shocking qualities of oyster mushroom mycelium. After conducting a test to see how much force mycelium can withstand, I found out that it can withstand force of up to 500 Newtons!

Oyster mushrooms growing on hay substrate. (Ashley Alcantara)

I have been able to grow mushroom mycelium in a variety of molds. In the future, I would like to take it a step further to 3D print mycelium and create beautiful pieces of art. Whether it is saving the world or making beautiful pieces of art, oyster mushrooms have inspired me to make an eco-friendly impact in my community and even the world, while incorporating my passions of engineering, architecture, and art.  

To learn more about the projects conducted in Dr. Grella’s and Mrs. Medwig’s Research courses, visit http://letssciencethat.org