MATERIAL DESIGN APPROACHES

Ecovative: Growing alternative materials

Ecovative: Growing Healthier Products

The search for healthier, more sustainable foam is what led two students to experiment with mushrooms and agricultural waste for a class called “The Inventor’s Studio”. Ten years later, Ecovative, the company started by the former students Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, has grown to make products used for packaging, furniture, and building construction.

Ecovative’s first product, MycoFoam, is made from recycled and compostable corn husks and mycelium, a fibrous growth of certain types of fungus. When mycelium is mixed with the agricultural waste, it sees the waste as food and forms a matrix of white fibers to digest it. The mixture is then placed in a mold and left for 3-5 days while the mycelium fibers grow to completely fill any gaps and bind the loose corn husk particles in a solid structure. Once this has been dried to prevent the growth of mushrooms or spores, it is ready to be used.

Ecovative’s product line now includes foam, engineered wood, and grow-it-yourself kits. Their products replace synthetic materials that are often made from non-renewable sources and can contain fire retardants that are known to cause reproductive and developmental harm. By using different strains of mushrooms, ecovative can create products with specific properties such as water resistance and fireproofing. And because they are made from bio-based materials, Ecovative’s products can be composted at the end of their life.

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