Mycelium is the subterranean root mass of mushrooms. It’s been described as the “internet” of the global ecosystem, connecting below-soil plant roots, bacteria, and atmosphere in ways environmental scientists are only beginning to understand. The fungal mass also has exceptional structural properties, able to digest simple carbohydrates into brick–like forms, all while repurposing would-be waste into architecture-worthy material.
Designer and material ecologist Andrea Ling and I took over the fifth floor kitchenette of the MIT Media Lab during Spring 2018 to probe a few of the unanswered questions surrounding mycelium’s material properties. More specifically, we wanted to test mycelium’s appetite for Ling and the Mediated Matter lab group’s soluble pavillion materials: pectin, cellulose, and chitosan.
Using Pleurotus djamor as our model organism, we tested varying ratios of Oryza sativa, pectin, and chitosan as a mycelial nutrient supply. Our initial findings showed promising results. Trials containing 30% ratios of chitosan and pectin showed near-complete mycelium propagation, while trials tested with 100% pectin and chitosan were nullified.