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Researchers Explore Mycelium's Potential Use in Translucent Lighting and Furniture

Updated: Jun 24

In an innovative research project, Clara Blum, Paula Castel, Lemmy Hu, and Gonzalo Muñoz Guerrero from the University of Stuttgart are exploring the use of mycelium mushrooms as a sustainable material in the design and construction industry. Their study focuses on leveraging mycelium for translucent building envelopes, using a lamp as a case study to balance visual barriers and light transmission. This approach aims to achieve distinctive visual effects and aesthetic value through the natural growth patterns of the material.

The research delves into testing various mycelium strains and cultivation methods, incorporating textiles for reinforcement and modifying agar bases with vegetable residues. By examining growth patterns, colour variations, and structural integrity, the study aims to enhance mycelium’s application in light shading elements and furniture.

In response to resource scarcity, sustainable materials like mycelium are becoming increasingly important in design and construction. Traditionally valued for its compressive qualities, the team investigates mycelium’s potential in creating translucent structures. Using Ganoderma Lucidum mycelium cultivated in agar bases within Petri dishes, the researchers transferred fully grown samples to larger agar-filled containers, adding textiles for reinforcement. Experiments with beetroot and cabbage residue liquids in the agar base revealed slight changes in color and growth patterns. Two assembly approaches were tested: framing in 3D-printed PLA frames and aggregating small-scale elements, with the latter involving liquifying and drying the agar to fuse growth elements.

The study’s results demonstrate that smaller mycelium pieces accelerate growth and create interesting patterns, suggesting potential applications in light shading and furniture. Modified agar marginally enhances growth speed and thickness, making mycelium separation easier. However, shrinkage and crumbling without the agar base present significant challenges, and contamination limits the scale of successful cultivation. Notably, the unexpected penetration of mycelium through the agar indicates further exploration potential. Textiles like tulle and bandages provide optimal reinforcement, though post-assembly shrinkage causes some deformation. While 3D-printed frames allow for structural variation, addressing shrinkage and crumbling is crucial for improving durability and stability.

Building on these results, future research will focus on refining these aspects, exploring interactive design possibilities, and scaling up implementations to enhance the final product’s performance. The authors conducted this research during the seminar ‘Myco-module,’ offered by the Institute of Building Technology and Design (IBK) at the University of Stuttgart.


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