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!
Cementless fly ash binder makes concrete 'green'
19.06.2018 | Rice University
Ground-breaking discoveries could create superior alloys with many applications
19.06.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...
Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.06.2018 | Health and Medicine