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 Triboelectric nanogenerators boost mass spectrometry performance
28.02.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Nano 'sandwich' offers unique properties
28.02.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology offers fast peptide synthesis

28.02.2017 | Life Sciences

WSU research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries

28.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Who can find the fish that makes the best sound?

28.02.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>