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US Whizkids Create Eco-friendly Building Material from Mushroom

Numerous companies have carved out their niche selling "green" building supplies such as recycled fiber board and plant-based paints. The Environmental Home Center in Seattle sells an insulation made from denim scraps and another made from 100 percent recycled paper among their many green building products.

After looking through about 800 patents, though, Bayer and McIntyre realized they'd hit upon a relatively original idea. Unlike many green building products, Greensulate isn't made from pre-existing materials. It requires little energy or expense to produce because it's grown from organic material.

Here's how it works: A mixture of water, mineral particles, starch and hydrogen peroxide are poured into 7-by-7-inch molds and then injected with living mushroom cells. The hydrogen peroxide is used to prevent the growth of other specimens within the material.

Placed in a dark environment, the cells start to grow, digesting the starch as food and sprouting thousands of root-like cellular strands. A week to two weeks later, a 1-inch-thick panel of insulation is fully grown. It's then dried to prevent fungal growth, making it unlikely to trigger mold and fungus allergies, according to Bayer. The finished product resembles a giant cracker in texture.

"It really allows for a myriad of uses," said McIntyre. He said they've envisioned modifying the product to make structural panels that could be grown and assembled onsite to produce sustainable homes.

For Bayer and McIntyre, their next step will be creating larger pieces of Greensulate to use in building a wall. From there, they'll perform further testing to see how the product stands up to various elements, including saturation and humidity. McIntyre said they have one two-year-old sample that's been exposed to the elements and shown no sign of degradation.

As part of their development plan, they're entering a new business incubation program at RPI to get the
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