Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Latest 'green' packing material? Mushrooms

28.07.2010
Packing foam now entering the marketplace is engineered from mushrooms and agricultural waste

A new packing material that grows itself is now appearing in shipped products across the country.

The composite of inedible agricultural waste and mushroom roots is called Mycobond™, and its manufacture requires just one eighth the energy and one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing material.

And unlike most foam substitutes, when no longer useful, it makes great compost in the garden.

The technology was the brainchild of two former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduates, Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer, who founded Ecovative Design of Green Island, N.Y., to bring their idea into production.

"We don't manufacture materials, we grow them," says McIntyre. "We're converting agricultural byproducts into a higher-value product."

Because the feedstock is based on renewable resources, he adds, the material has an economic benefit as well: it is not prone to the price fluctuations common to synthetic materials derived from such sources as petroleum. "All of our raw materials are inherently renewable and they are literally waste streams," says McIntyre. "It's an open system based on biological materials."

With support from NSF, McIntyre and Bayer are developing a new, less energy-intensive method to sterilize their agricultural-waste starter material--a necessary step for enabling the mushroom fibers, called mycelia, to grow. McIntyre and Bayer are replacing a steam-heat process with a treatment made from cinnamon-bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil.

The sterilization process, which kills any spores that could compete with Ecovative's mushrooms, is almost as effective as the autoclaving process used to disinfect medical instruments and will allow the Mycobond™ products to grow in the open air, instead of their current clean-room environment.

"The biological disinfection process simply emulates nature," says McIntyre, "in that it uses compounds that plants have evolved over centuries to inhibit microbial growth. The unintended result is that our production floor smells like a pizza shop."

Much of the manufacturing process is nearly energy-free, with the mycelia growing around and digesting agricultural starter material--such as cotton seed or wood fiber--in an environment that is both room-temperature and dark. Because the growth occurs within a molded plastic structure (which the producers customize for each application), no energy is required for shaping the products.

Once fully formed, each piece is heat-treated to stop the growth process and delivered to the customer--though with the new, easier, disinfection treatment, Bayer and McIntyre are hoping the entire process can be packaged as a kit, allowing shipping facilities, and even homeowners, to grow their own Mycobond™ materials.

Based on a preliminary assessment McIntyre and Bayer conducted under their Phase I NSF SBIR award, the improvements to the sterilization phase will reduce the energy of the entire manufacturing process to one fortieth of that required to create polymer foam.

"This project is compelling because it uses innovative technology to further improve Ecovative's value, while also providing the environmental benefits that NSF is looking for," said Ben Schrag, the NSF program officer who oversees Ecovative's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. "The traction that they have gotten with their early customers demonstrates how companies can build strong businesses around products whose primary competitive advantage lies in their sustainability."

In addition to the packaging product, called EcoCradle™, Ecovative has developed a home insulation product dubbed greensulate™. Comparable in effectiveness to foam insulation, it has the added benefit of being flame retardant.

Ecovative is already producing custom protective packaging products for several Fortune 500 companies, though they are leveraging the new disinfection process to produce turnkey systems that they plan to deploy to off-site customers and do-it-yourself homeowners by 2013.

In addition to NSF, Evocative has received support from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Joshua A. Chamot | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Robust and functional – surface finishing by suspension spraying
19.09.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme IKTS

nachricht Graphene and other carbon nanomaterials can replace scarce metals
19.09.2017 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

New quantum phenomena in graphene superlattices

19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A simple additive to improve film quality

19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>