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Homegrown Mushroom Mycelium Insulation Panels

 
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This project is part of the Natural Building track, overlapping with food preservation, apothecary, homesteading, and skip tracks.



I will track progress for my prototype panels, provide details for their manufacture and value-added byproducts, and suggest possible applications for testing at the PTJ and beyond.



The final artifact for this project will be acoustical/insulative panels comprised of mushroom mycelium.  Testing of mycelium for this application has been promising, yielding mold- and fire-resistant in-wall filling with competitive r-value, air tightness, and breathability.  

Advantages of mycelium over typical, conventional insulation (fiberglass/mineral wool or similar)
1) Carbon negative.
2) Far superior in creating a healthy living environment.  Mold-resistant, no toxic components/ingredients, no off-gassing.
3) Can be produced from readily available materials and agricultural byproducts at a homestead scale.
4) Biodegradable at end-of-life.
5) Stacking functions when panels are dried and put into use after one ore multiple harvests of fruiting bodies.

Challenges for this method in a homestead-scale environment include:
1) Requirements for pasteurization/sterilization of substrate at various stages
2) Sourcing of organic-or-better substrate media
3) Development of financially viable systems yielding price-competitive products.  Financial viability is increased by stacking functions - when one considers that the panels may be value-added byproducts from the production of valuable food and medicinal crop mushroom fruiting bodies.

Possible applications of use for the end-product include:
1) In-wall insulation, or visible interior insulation.
2) Acoustical insulation for spacial sound treatment applications.
3) Biologically/ecologically appropriate polyiso alternative for use in Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).
4) Potential insulation for rocket stove/rocket mass heater heat riser, as lab testing has shown fire-resistance of mycelium at over 1400*F.  Heat resistance is increased by the inclusion of silica in substrate, which becomes suspended in mycelial polymers.  Possibilities substrate ingredients include: rice hulls, common sand, horsetail.
5) Potential to include conductive metals in substrate, which may subsequently be metabolized and woven throughout mycelium structure, yielding a electromagnetically conductive building envelope to shield inhabitants from nnEMF.

The goals of this project track are 2-fold:
1) Develop and improve a mycelium panel / mushroom fruiting body yielding protocol that is a) cost effective, b) replicable at homestead scale, and c) Ecologically sound in equipment and material sourcing.
2) Develop several varieties of panels for tesing for the above 3 applications.

The required materials for a simple, start-up operation include:
-Large, clear plastic tub or glass case (for still air box) (or a laminar flow hood - convenient, but usually not reasonable for small/homestead operations)
-Wide-mouth mason jars with metal lids
-Small metal hole-punch
-micro-pore tape, injection ports, or cotton tufts
-Pressure cooker(s) or instant pot(s) for sterilization
-Growth forms.  tubs, bins, tubes, etc, in the desired shape.
-Isopropyl alcohol
-Spray bottle
-Face masks
-Medical gloves
-Rye grain (10lbs)
-H20 access
-Honey
-Fresh straw substrate (one bail)
-Hardwood chips (1/4 yard)
-Hardwood sawdust (5-10 gallons)
-Mushroom liquid culture - begining with Reishi and Oyster varieties.

Optional:
-Turkey roasting bags - to pasteurize substrate in an oven, if a large boiler/kettle is unavailable
-Uncle Ben's 90-second ready-to-eat unseasoned brown rice (if you don't have an instant pot or pressure cooker for sterilization)
-Substrate additives: coffee grounds, gypsum, vermiculite, perlite, molasses

 References:

Stamets, Paul. Mycelium running. Berkeley, Ten Speed Press, 2005.

https://ecovative.com/

https://issuu.com/mycofarmx/docs/mycofarmx/22

Mitchell Jones, Andreas Mautner, Stefano Luenco, Alexander Bismarck, Sabu John,
Engineered mycelium composite construction materials from fungal biorefineries: A critical review,
Materials & Design,
Volume 187,
2020,
108397,
ISSN 0264-1275,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2019.108397.
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264127519308354)
Abstract: Mycelium composites are an emerging class of cheap and environmentally sustainable materials experiencing increasing research interest and commercialisation in the EU and USA for construction applications. These materials utilise natural fungal growth as a low energy bio-fabrication method to upcycle abundant agricultural by-products and wastes into more sustainable alternatives to energy intensive synthetic construction materials. Mycelium composites have customisable material properties based on their composition and manufacturing process and can replace foams, timber and plastics for applications, such as insulation, door cores, panelling, flooring, cabinetry and other furnishings. Due to their low thermal conductivity, high acoustic absorption and fire safety properties outperforming traditional construction materials, such as synthetic foams and engineered woods, they show particular promise as thermal and acoustic insulation foams. However, limitations stemming from their typically foam-like mechanical properties, high water absorption and many gaps in material property documentation necessitate the use of mycelium composites as non- or semi-structural supplements to traditional construction materials for specific, suitable applications, including insulation, panelling and furnishings. Nonetheless, useful material properties in addition to the low costs, simplicity of manufacture and environmental sustainability of these materials suggest that they will play a significant role in the future of green construction.
Keywords: Fungal mycelium; Mechanical performance; Insulation properties; Fire safety; Water and termite resistance

Lai Jiang, Daniel Walczyk, Gavin McIntyre, Wai Kin Chan,
Cost modeling and optimization of a manufacturing system for mycelium-based biocomposite parts,
Journal of Manufacturing Systems,
Volume 41,
2016,
Pages 8-20,
ISSN 0278-6125,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmsy.2016.07.004.
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278612516300322)
Abstract: A manufacturing cost model is created that includes all labor, material and overhead costs for novel mycelium-based biocomposite sandwich structures produced by a commercial firm. This model is implemented through a spreadsheet to calculate the equivalent uniform annual costs (UAC) of all manufacturing facilities. A simulation model of the manufacturing line is then implemented based on all these costs as well as system parameters experimentally measured from real manufacturing operations. The Tabu search method is utilized to search for the best manufacturing configuration including optimal number of machines and workers for each manufacturing step under both the current and projected production situations. The optimal solution can be used by the spreadsheet tool to calculate the net cost of each manufactured part and determine a proper retail price. The manufacturing system presented and associated models can be used by manufacturing personnel to assess the commercial viability of bicomposite parts.
Keywords: Biocomposite manufacturing; Mycelium; Manufacturing cost modeling; Cost optimization; Sustainable manufacturing

Jones, Mitchell P. & Bhat, Tanmay & Wang, Chun-Hui & Moinuddin, Khalid & John, Sabu. (2017).
Thermal degradation and fire reaction properties of mycelium composites.
http://www.iccm-central.org/Proceedings/ICCM21proceedings/papers/3269.pdf
Mycelium bio-composites are emerging as a safer and more fire-resistant alternative to commercially available thermoplastics intended for non-structural and semi-structural applications in the building and construction industry. In this paper, the fire reaction and thermal degradation properties of a mycelium bio-composite grown from rice hulls are evaluated and compared with commercially available extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam. The fire reaction properties of these materials are measured under cone calorimeter heating conditions that can generate correlations for a well-developed room fire (e.g. an incident heat flux of 50 kW/m2). Despite having similar time-to-ignition, the heat release rates (including the peak values), carbon dioxide release, carbon monoxide release and smoke density of the mycelium composite is significantly lower than those of the XPS foam. Thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA) revealed that the superior fire-retardant characteristics of mycelium composites can be attributed to significant char formation driven by the presence of aromatic compounds (i.e. lignin) in the rice hulls, and phosphorus in the mycelium. The high silica content of rice hulls (15-20 wt%) also contributed to the better fire reaction properties of the mycelium composite. This array of fire retardant mechanisms reduced the amount of heat and toxic fumes released during combustion, thereby making mycelium bio-composites safer for use in construction applications requiring resistance to thermal shock.
 
Beau Davidson
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Concerning the possible use of mycelium insulation panels in a high temp environment - I suspect degradation to render this a non-possibility - but I want to test with other knowledgable people to ideate.

Here are some images of burn testing in a laboratory environment:





Research shows that fire-retardation of mycelium is primarily attributed to its h20 content.  Thus, as it is dried by prolonged exposure, its fire-retardant properties are diminished.  

Put in plain terms, mycelium outperforms typical wall insulation - but not typical furnace insulation.  

The remaining caveat is this: Can additional silica, or other hi-temp resistance material be incorporated into the substrate to a percentage that a) increases heat tolerance over prolonged exposure, and b) allows mycelium to retain its structural integrity.

A few questions as I approach testing phase for this aspect:

1) What are the various temparature threshholds for various rocket stove and RMH specs:
-4"
-6"
-8"

2) Does anyone in the RMH arena have specs handy for common current heat riser insulation materials?
 
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This looks amazing!

Do you have any current thoughts on how best to sterilize the substrate?

In terms of hardwood as one of the substrates, would there be a hardwood of preference?
 
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Could they be used below grade for foundation insulation?  The products available for below grade insulation are pretty limited currently.....
 
Beau Davidson
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Ashley Cottonwood wrote:Do you have any current thoughts on how best to sterilize the substrate?


For initial inoculation of spawn starter, I sterilized soaked rye grain in mason jars in an instant pot.  Easy/effective.  This stage should be sterile to give the mycelium an edge over competitive fungal/microbial activity.
For pasteurization of substrate, I used a deep hotel pan in an oven, maintaining a core temp of 160*F for 2 hours.  Other ways include boiling, or I think some sort of a lime treatment at room temp.  I haven't used that method.

Ashley Cottonwood wrote:In terms of hardwood as one of the substrates, would there be a hardwood of preference?


Different fungal species have different preferences.  For instance, pearl oyster will eat a variety of species quite happily.  Reishi has some preferences.  But then, Reishi is said to not do well on straw, and yet my reishi panels on straw are doing better than my reishi panels on hardwood.  I did add molasses on a nutritional hunch.  So, if you have a predominant species of wood at your disposal (even soft woods) you could source a fungal species that "specializes" in that wood variety.  

For these initial panels, I am trying three substrate recipes:  Straw, Mixed Hardwoods, and a Straw + Mixed Hardwoods blend.  I have a mixture of catalpa, walnut and mulberry wood.  It's what the arborist dropped off last month.  
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:Could they be used below grade for foundation insulation?  The products available for below grade insulation are pretty limited currently.....



Great question.  I would feel the need for further testing with regard to moisture accumulation. As it is compostible and biodegradable, I wouldn't trust it for use as an exterior below-grade insulation alternative, unless you devise some method of keeping it dry.

I will say I have come to trust mycelium over than synthetics, with regard to mold and rot resistance. In my experience, modern materials tend to resist for some time, then fail catastrophically, whereas mycelium exhibits many of the beneficial, anti-microbial characteristics of the organism, even after kiln dried.  

Any specific foundation-related suggestions for adding to my tests?
 
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I don't have any relevant skills or knowledge, but what to cheer your effort. We NEED to insulate buildings much better, for environmental/climate reasons; current insulation materials have drawbacks in terms of potential health effects from outgassing and also in the event of a house fire, and manufacturing them may be a local environmental issue; then there's disposal. This is a way to solve all the problems. You're talking about a homestead scale operation. I'm not sure that's realistic but I'd like to see this as a small business providing perhaps a couple of local jobs. One question is whether a larger-scale factory would devour too much organic matter from the area.
 
Beau Davidson
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Mary Cook wrote:You're talking about a homestead scale operation. I'm not sure that's realistic but I'd like to see this as a small business providing perhaps a couple of local jobs. One question is whether a larger-scale factory would devour too much organic matter from the area.



What I'm suggesting is that a homesteader who wishes to enter the realm of mushroom production, rather than throwing away (or even composting) their spent substrate, grows them in a form that will make the waste-byproduct a valuable asset.  Over time, the volume would be suitable to amass an amount of mycelium panels adequate to accomplish the insulating needs of new outbuildings, home renovation, etc.  If the homesteader wishes to market the panels to the public, it doesn't need to be competitive in price to typical in-wall options, but it could certainly be competitive to commercially available acoustical treatment panels often used in gathering spaces, venues, restaurants, studios, and the like.
 
Beau Davidson
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Another alternative to panels would be stackable blocks, which could be assembled, like legos, then cobbed, sided, or sheathed outside, and treated however (or left bare) on the interior.
 
Beau Davidson
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Here is the basic process I follow.  Although I've tried several variations for each step, I'm streamlining the overview here for clarity's sake.  It is really a very simple process, with just a few considerations.  I have lots of detail pictures and points that I can expand upon, by request.

1) Obtain liquid culture and introduce into sterilized rye.  (Rye was cooked like rice, then sterilized by pressure canning.  Innoculation took place under a still air box, which for me was just an upside-down plastic tub.  Like a sneeze-guard at a salad bar.)

Liquid Culture.  I purchased the first round, and cloned it into sterilized honey water, yielding a potentially limitless supply (with caveats)


Cloned liquid culture - 4% honey 96% water.  Marble to agitate and prevent clumping.  Store in fridge, usable for a year or more.


Rye spawn, after 1 week growth.



2) When spawn is colonized, yet still crumbly, mix it into pasteurized straw/wood debris/mix.  (I pasteurized in a regular oven.  They say internal temp should reach 160 and maintain for 2 hours.  I just put it on at 170, the lowest setting, and left it for 4.)

Colonized spawn on top of pasteurized substrate.  I used reclaimed airline tubs for my forms.  Their inner dimensions (14.5x24x3) will yield a panel that will be easy to fit into conventional in-walls studs, like typical mineral wool batts. Additionally, each bin nests into the one below, eliminating the need for a separate lid.


Close-up of crumbly spawn.  This time I used rice.



3) Stack bins and wait for substrate to colonize.  Maybe 10-12 weeks.


 
Beau Davidson
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Here is the 2-week update on the panels progress.  Good growth, now rapidly spreading.  I have started another batch, and will soon begin a couple more, each time attempting to use less plastic or more reusable plastic pieces.  My goal is to streamline the process to bare-bones, with as little waste as possible, while still yielding consistent results.

In the coming weeks, I hope to expand the experiment in the following ways:

-include Pearl Oyster mycelium, to evaluate cost/benefit/performance comparison.
-Add silica and glass particles in various forms to the substrate to improve fire retardant qualities.
-Utilize other forms - chiefly devising a tube structure with an inner diameter of 4 inches to test durability as a fire retardant in prolonged high-heat environments like rocket stoves.



 
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One thing I'm wondering, You mention oyster and there is an image of Reishi mushroom spawn. But these are fruiting mushrooms...wouldn't you want non-fruiting fungi for this (is there such a thing?) I don't know that much about mushrooms, and have grown my own shiitake and oyster mushrooms with bought spawn, but that's as adventurous as I am.
 
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Mary Cook wrote:One thing I'm wondering, You mention oyster and there is an image of Reishi mushroom spawn. But these are fruiting mushrooms...wouldn't you want non-fruiting fungi for this (is there such a thing?) I don't know that much about mushrooms, and have grown my own shiitake and oyster mushrooms with bought spawn, but that's as adventurous as I am.



Good question, Mary.  

Oyster and Reishi are two of the most common species being studied in these sorts of applications.  Many studies cut off their growth stage prior to fruiting.  It is one of my goals, however, to induce one or multiple fruitings, and then use the spent substrate for building purposes.  There is some data that suggests that fruiting does take some of the inherent structure from the mycelium - which makes sense, to a degree.  But my hypothesis is that any structural degradation in the mycelium incurred by induced fruiting will be negligible and will not affect performance as an acoustical and insulative media.  Indeed, the stacked functions are integral to my project goals - i.e. the harvesting of fruiting bodies, as well as the use of mycelium panels after food/medicine production phase is complete.
 
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It seems like the structural degradation you're talking about could actually improve the sound/heat insulating capacity if it's creating extra cavities throughout. The risk seems like it's only to the ability of the panel to remain intact.
 
Beau Davidson
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Christopher Weeks wrote:It seems like the structural degradation you're talking about could actually improve the sound/heat insulating capacity if it's creating extra cavities throughout. The risk seems like it's only to the ability of the panel to remain intact.



Interesting, Christopher.  I hadn't thought of it that way.
 
Beau Davidson
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Another possibility I'm considering regarding degredation as a heat riser - I am considering the possibility of mixing in a clay/sand combination to the substrate.  So the mycelium would consume the organic material, adding structure, and remaining far more resistant to heat than straw - which would simply combust in a heat riser, I'm assuming.

So it would be like making a cob mixture, heavy on the straw, inoculated with mycelium, and packing it tightly into a tube-shaped form.  The straw would be consumed by the mycelium.  I would like to know how this would impact the longevity of the structure.  

There's a lot of mycelium research out there, and I've read hundreds of scientific studies.  I have yet to see anyone attempt hybridized materials.
 
Mike Haasl
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A big hurdle for natural building is roofing materials.  Might this material be a candidate for an insulated, waterproof roof?  And/or in conjunction with a living roof (unlikely)?
 
Beau Davidson
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Mike Haasl wrote:A big hurdle for natural building is roofing materials.  Might this material be a candidate for an insulated, waterproof roof?  And/or in conjunction with a living roof (unlikely)?



I think it's a great candidate for roofing insulation - provided it is beneath the waterproof membrane, and condensation is given proper egress.
 
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This is a fascinating concept! In my various construction projects are the property, insulation is always one of the biggest costs, as it can be difficult to locate recycled. I will be watching with great interest!

On a side note, how does one acquire those airline tubs? I can see many potential uses for something that size!
 
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INumerous companies are growing Mycelium for insulation and furniture. However, the real benefit from Mycelium is its a Vegan approved meat and dairy substitute. That’s right, when grown on a suitable substrate, it’s fit for human consumption and creates Vegan products ranging from bacon to dairy products.

In my opinion, the Permaculture community should put together a team dedicated to the on and off-grid production of food and explore the two main ways to make Mycelium: submerged Fermentation (liquid) and the Solid state method described in this article. Large investments are being made to develop Mycelium food products so I propose we put our thinking caps on and design a homesteader version for the masses. I believe Mycelium could figuratively be the next Manna from Heaven food source.
Here is the link to one company offering a meat and dairy free product from Mycelium. https://www.naturesfynd.com/products
 
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Beau Davidson wrote:
5) Potential to include conductive metals in substrate, which may subsequently be metabolized and woven throughout mycelium structure, yielding a electromagnetically conductive building envelope to shield inhabitants from nnEMF.


Super neat project Beau!  Have you seen reference to fungi metabolized metals being deposited in a metalic state for EMF shielding?  If the metals were in a dry ionic state I would expect them to not be an effective EMF shield...but data is king :)

Another option if metals don't end up working may be to incorporate wood charcoal formed at 800C throughout the substrate to act as the EMF shielding.  As a bonus your panels would be even more carbon negative.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7758945/
https://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/3
 
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Joshua Rimmer wrote:This is a fascinating concept! In my various construction projects are the property, insulation is always one of the biggest costs, as it can be difficult to locate recycled. I will be watching with great interest!

On a side note, how does one acquire those airline tubs? I can see many potential uses for something that size!



Oh my gosh, I use these tubs for everything.  Stackable tool bins, gardening, seed starting, temporary animal feed/water/minerals.  They are very cheap for me, as they are second-hand from the airline industry.  I buy them by the dozen at a place in Wichita, KS called the Yard, which has heaps of aviation refuse, including massive amounts (a 4-acre lot full) of aerospace grade metal.

For those not in the area, they are also sold by U-line, and often used in factories.

There is also a company making kits for tiny-home builders to grow their insulation in place, sandwiched between tongue-and groove siding.  So one could make wooden forms and accomplish a similar output.  I think it would handle moisture quite differently, but it is being done.
 
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Greg Martin wrote:

Beau Davidson wrote:
5) Potential to include conductive metals in substrate, which may subsequently be metabolized and woven throughout mycelium structure, yielding a electromagnetically conductive building envelope to shield inhabitants from nnEMF.


Super neat project Beau!  Have you seen reference to fungi metabolized metals being deposited in a metalic state for EMF shielding?  If the metals were in a dry ionic state I would expect them to not be an effective EMF shield...but data is king :)

Another option if metals don't end up working may be to incorporate wood charcoal formed at 800C throughout the substrate to act as the EMF shielding.  As a bonus your panels would be even more carbon negative.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7758945/
https://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/3



I don't yet know, Greg, you may very well be right about the conductivity issue.  I'm hoping through this thread and project that people will help me comb through the massive amount of emerging data!  The charcoal idea is fascinating - I will have to look into that more.
 
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Beau Davidson wrote:Concerning the possible use of mycelium insulation panels in a high temp environment
?



I wonder if you could somehow use starlite, either mixed, or as a layer on top of your mycelium?




 
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I absolutely love what you're going for with this thread!  It's been rattling around in the back of my mind for a while, but I didn't have the time or base knowledge to pursue it.  Will definitely be keeping eyes on this.

For the heat riser tube (or any of the forms), how much shrinkage do you expect between the original form shape and the final result after drying?  Also, as ambient moisture levels change, how do you expect the panels (or blocks, tubes, whatever) to respond?  I can see how they'd either swell/shrink as a whole due to the permeability, or just on the surface (in which case the air pockets could serve as an internal buffer, giving room for the dimension changes at the surface).

If the moisture does end up staying primarily at the surface, do you expect there to be any warping or bowing effects (imagining a flat panel here).

One last one for now:  Is it possible to form the final products such that typical wood joinery techniques can be used to lock them together (or strategically use wood pegs to lock them in place), hopefully avoiding gaps and/or shifts due to shrink/swell?  I'm not thinking these would be carved into shape, but rather pre-formed in the correct shape.
 
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Tim Mackson wrote:

Beau Davidson wrote:Concerning the possible use of mycelium insulation panels in a high temp environment
?



I wonder if you could somehow use starlite, either mixed, or as a layer on top of your mycelium?

Cool Tim, thanks for that.  I had considered various forms and mixtures of glass, silica, and clay, but not a treatment like those mentioned in these videos.  Thanks for the input.

 
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Brian Guetzlaff wrote:
For the heat riser tube (or any of the forms), how much shrinkage do you expect between the original form shape and the final result after drying?  Also, as ambient moisture levels change, how do you expect the panels (or blocks, tubes, whatever) to respond?  I can see how they'd either swell/shrink as a whole due to the permeability, or just on the surface (in which case the air pockets could serve as an internal buffer, giving room for the dimension changes at the surface).

If the moisture does end up staying primarily at the surface, do you expect there to be any warping or bowing effects (imagining a flat panel here).



I don't expect much shrinkage or warping of the structure as a whole, just diametrical shrinkage of the individual mycelial strands.  I'll keep an eye on it an share observations.

Brian Guetzlaff wrote:
One last one for now:  Is it possible to form the final products such that typical wood joinery techniques can be used to lock them together (or strategically use wood pegs to lock them in place), hopefully avoiding gaps and/or shifts due to shrink/swell?  I'm not thinking these would be carved into shape, but rather pre-formed in the correct shape.



Interesting idea - I would say yes, it is possible.  And in addition, when joined - the mycelia have a tendency to "heal together," which could present some unique opportunities.
 
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Hi Beau,

I’m working on this, too!  Very cool to see this and am looking forward to seeing results and sharing mine as well.  Specifically I’m working on insulation for structures, and even more specifically for my ger/yurt.  I’ve been cultivating edible and medicinal mushrooms for a while now, been foraging for years.

Project at the moment is using Pleurotus ostreatus (common oyster) but I might give Flammulina  velutipes (enoki/velvet foot) a try too.  I isolated a local strain here in Illinois and it is a very fast colonizer, faster than oyster and almost as quick as Morel.  I’m using a mix of hardwood sawdust and straw (maybe some wood chip) for the substrate and shooting for panels 2” thick.  Forms are urethane coated lumber on the base and sides, top side either polycarbonate or plastic sheet with holes spaced and covered with micro pore tape for gas exchange.

Just now starting the cultures, agar (MDA) to liquid culture and will be working on it this season.  

For now I’m not planning on letting the mycelium fruit.  My understanding is  many in the past who are making insulation this way avoid this as it will release spores(lots and lots of them in the case of oysters).  Also having done some building in the past, insulation will almost always accumulate condensation due to humidity and delta T.  Water + food, substrate+ spores= renewed mushroom growth, not something too desirable in walls for me at least.  My understanding is the insulation panels are also often heat-treated in order to ensure the mycelium is inactive, read dead.   I believe spores are more heat tolerant than mycelium, too.The one thing about having that air mycelium skin that’s heat treated is that it is pretty hydrophobic, too, a plus, eh?

But some thoughts: there are commercial varieties of oysters I think that are low spore producers and I think some may not produce any at all ( the spores of oysters in particular can lead to growers developing lung ailments/allergies which is why such unique strains are sought after).  Forgive me if I missed that detail in reading about your work so far, but it is a concern for air quality, and longevity of the insulation.

I do like the idea of first getting a crop and then getting an insulation board or infill block from that one stone thrown!  Maybe those cultures are worth looking into?



 
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J.  So glad you jumped in!  Great information.  Do you have studies on these aspects you could send my way?  

J Rubins wrote:Specifically I’m working on insulation for structures, and even more specifically for my ger/yurt.



This seems particularly pertinent to this conversation, as there has been dialogue over at Reddit regarding this project, and its potential suitability for structures that lack the modern "air-tight" objective.  I have contended that the better breathing, the better for the panels, provided humidity is mitigated in the structure (as with all natural and traditional building modalities).  I'm eager to watch your mycelium panels in a yurt over the life of the structure.

J Rubins wrote:Project at the moment is using Pleurotus ostreatus (common oyster) but I might give Flammulina  velutipes (enoki/velvet foot) a try too.  I isolated a local strain here in Illinois and it is a very fast colonizer, faster than oyster and almost as quick as Morel.  I’m using a mix of hardwood sawdust and straw (maybe some wood chip) for the substrate and shooting for panels 2” thick.  Forms are urethane coated lumber on the base and sides, top side either polycarbonate or plastic sheet with holes spaced and covered with micro pore tape for gas exchange.



You are shooting for a way higher standard than me - which is cool - I am subject to the comings and goings of a family of four in a semi-offgrid tiny home, so sterility and a controlled environment is nowhere near an option.  I'm toeing the line between appropriate caution on the front end (spawn and l.c.) and STUN as the panels moves along.  I'm very eager to try different species, because their traits are so wildly divergent.  I admit, I chose Ganoderma and Pleurotus  because they're cheap, readily available, hardy, widely studied, and we already use them in culinary and medicinal applications.

J Rubins wrote:For now I’m not planning on letting the mycelium fruit.  My understanding is  many in the past who are making insulation this way avoid this as it will release spores(lots and lots of them in the case of oysters).  Also having done some building in the past, insulation will almost always accumulate condensation due to humidity and delta T.  Water + food, substrate+ spores= renewed mushroom growth, not something too desirable in walls for me at least.  My understanding is the insulation panels are also often heat-treated in order to ensure the mycelium is inactive, read dead.   I believe spores are more heat tolerant than mycelium, too.The one thing about having that air mycelium skin that’s heat treated is that it is pretty hydrophobic, too, a plus, eh?

But some thoughts: there are commercial varieties of oysters I think that are low spore producers and I think some may not produce any at all ( the spores of oysters in particular can lead to growers developing lung ailments/allergies which is why such unique strains are sought after).  Forgive me if I missed that detail in reading about your work so far, but it is a concern for air quality, and longevity of the insulation.

I do like the idea of first getting a crop and then getting an insulation board or infill block from that one stone thrown!  Maybe those cultures are worth looking into?



Great to bear in mind about spore resilience.  I need to obtain some clear data about that as I move into finishing my first round of panels.  My plan at this stage is to run them through my solar wood kiln, which is hyperinsulated and gets very, very hot in the summer months.  I don't have specs on the kiln yet, as this will be its first year in full-time use.  Lots of converging experiments around here.  It is a life of planned improvisation.

I have been considering letting ganoderma fruit exclusively its in antler form, wondering how much that mitigates the spore concern.

Thanks again, looking forward to trekking with you on this.  Make sure to keep us up to date.
 
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Could you use CLO2 for sterilization instead of steam? Should be much faster and easier to get better results. It is the gold standard for water treatment, food processing, even used for Anthrax removal.
 
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Tom Philips wrote:Could you use CLO2 for sterilization instead of steam? Should be much faster and easier to get better results. It is the gold standard for water treatment, food processing, even used for Anthrax removal.



Studies show CL02 is a promising sterilization alternative.  I have no experience with it.  I tend to be shy around potentially toxic stuff in the home.  I would say it has a place though, as it can also be made on a homestead scale. I can't remark on its ecological comparison to other methods.
 
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Hi Beau,

Absolutely,  much of the motivation for my project in addition to sustainability and regenerative materials is to find and share better ways to insulate the dripping wet mildew machines yurts can become in temperate, humid climates when using current techniques and materials (other than wool felt which is prohibitive in cost). Thanks for alerting me to the Reddit discussion on this.

I hear you about sanitizing standards, heck, my flow hood is set up in a corner of my current bedroom!  I do have some of that sanitizing paranoia often seen in mycology circles, though.  Your regimen seems sensible.  I’m also going to try a combination of lime and heat pasteurization for the final substrate.  Sawdust/heat, straw/lime then mixed and inoculated.

Yes! Solar hotbox for drying/ heat treatment also on my agenda, and a rocket stove heater for plan B.

Here’s this about heat treatment for drying by rocket stove in addition to grassroots mycelium insulation production by an organization called Critical Concrete.  Lots of cost calculation as well in Euros as they’re based in Portugal. https://criticalconcrete.com/producing-mycelium-insulation/

I’ll look out for research on spore resilience, and let you know, and I’ll see if I can turn up anything about sporeless varieties, though I suspect such cultures’ cost may be prohibitive for DIY folk, but who knows until you look.
 
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J Rubins wrote:Here’s this about heat treatment for drying by rocket stove in addition to grassroots mycelium insulation production by an organization called Critical Concrete.  Lots of cost calculation as well in Euros as they’re based in Portugal. https://criticalconcrete.com/producing-mycelium-insulation/



I've run into their rocket kiln for panel drying before - seems like a good and simple design!
 
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Sporeless oyster liquid cultures going for the pretty standard rate which seems surprising. Can’t vouch for the sellers as I haven’t used any of their cultures.

https://millywyco.com/product/sporeless-oyster-liquid-culture/

https://www.mycocultures.com/product/sporeless-oysters-liquid-culture-syringe-pleurotus-ostreatus/


 
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J Rubins wrote:Sporeless oyster liquid cultures going for the pretty standard rate which seems surprising. Can’t vouch for the sellers as I haven’t used any of their cultures.

https://millywyco.com/product/sporeless-oyster-liquid-culture/

https://www.mycocultures.com/product/sporeless-oysters-liquid-culture-syringe-pleurotus-ostreatus/




Hey, not bad!  Thanks, I'll bookmark this.
 
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Glad to see this thread. Thank you.

Have been thinking re: incorporation of wool fibers into mushroom insulation.

Re: Fire-resistance of wool:
Fire-Resistant & Fireproof Materials, Part 2
JULY 27, 2019
https://host.megapress.org/blogiq/2019/07/fire-resistant-fireproof-materials-part-2.html

Related to what has already been posted:

Fire-resistant & Fireproof Materials, Part 1: Starlite
FEBRUARY 23, 2019
https://host.megapress.org/blogiq/2019/02/fire-resistant-fireproof-materials-part-1-starlite.html

Mushroom Insulation for Houses Instead of Fiberglass Insulation
AUGUST 29, 2013
https://host.megapress.org/blogiq/2013/08/mushroom-insulation-for-houses-instead-of-fiberglass.html
 
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Elena - wool is awesome!  If you have wool sheep, it's  a no-brainer, isn't it?

And that ecovative house is very, very cool.  I started thinking of this homestead-scale, value-added application almost 5 years ago, and have really appreciated their work in demystifying the process and making it available to the masses (albeit, at a price!)
 
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Many years ago I read an article about an English lady growing clothes from fungi. She'd make a plaster cast of her client and make a positive form from that. She'd apply a nutrient gel to that form, and leave it in her damp cellar to grow fluffy. When ready, she'd strip that off the form, and take it down to her local stream (she lived in a hilly area) and leave it in the water for the water life to finish off the loose organic material for a few days. She could then dry it and supply her customer.
More personal insulation means less building insulation needed!
 
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Anthony Powell wrote:Many years ago I read an article about an English lady growing clothes from fungi. She'd make a plaster cast of her client and make a positive form from that. She'd apply a nutrient gel to that form, and leave it in her damp cellar to grow fluffy. When ready, she'd strip that off the form, and take it down to her local stream (she lived in a hilly area) and leave it in the water for the water life to finish off the loose organic material for a few days. She could then dry it and supply her customer.
More personal insulation means less building insulation needed!



Whooooooa.

If anyone finds this, I'd love to check it out.
 
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