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US Whizkids Create Eco-friendly Building Material from Mushroom

Mushroom for insulation, anyone? Eben Bayer of Vermont and his colleague Gavin McIntyre have done exactly that, almost .

The two have together created and already patented "Greensulate" formula, an organic, fire-retardant board made of water, flour, oyster mushroom spores and perlite, a mineral blend found in potting soil. They're hoping the invention will soon be part of the growing market for eco-friendly products.

Bringing the insulation to market is still at least a year away though, said McIntyre, and will require much more research and work, not to mention more sophisticated equipment and a better work space.

"We've been growing the material under our beds," said McIntyre, adding that they've applied for a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

The two young developers Bayer is 21, McIntyre 22 graduated in May from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York with dual majors in mechanical engineering and product design and innovation.

"I think it has a lot of potential, and it could make a big difference in people's lives," said Professor Burt Swersy, whose Inventor's Studio course inspired the product's creation. "It's sustainable, and enviro-friendly, it's not based on petrochemicals and doesn't require much energy or cost to make it."

The two say recent tests at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have shown it to be competitive with most insulation brands on the market. A 1-inch-thick sample of the perlite-mushroom composite had a 2.9 R-value, the measure of a substance's ability to resist heat flow. Commercially produced fiberglass insulation typically has an R-value between 2.7 and 3.7 per inch of thickness, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

With a rapidly increasing global population, a limited supply of natural resources, and rising energy prices, eco-friendly housing products are selling fast.
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