[permaculture] Edible fungi studied as possible material for applications of eco-friendly insulation
dtv at mwt.net
Thu Jun 21 10:54:43 EDT 2007
Young entrepreneurs look to mushrooms
Edible fungi studied as possible material for applications of eco-
TROY, N.Y. (Jun 21, 2007)
Eben Bayer grew up on a farm in Vermont learning the intricacies of
mushroom harvesting with his father. Now he's using that experience
to create an organic insulation made from mushrooms.
More at home on a pizza, mushrooms certainly aren't a typical
building material. But when given the assignment two years ago to
create a sustainable insulation, Bayer thought they just might work.
Combining his agricultural knowledge with colleague Gavin McIntyre's
interest in sustainable technology, the two created their 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.
It will be at least a year before the insulation comes to market,
said McIntyre. It needs 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 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 RPI 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 2.5-centimetre-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 fibreglass
insulation typically has an R-value between 2.7 and 3.7 per 2.5
centimetres 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. Numerous companies have carved out their
niche selling "green" building supplies such as recycled fibre board
and plant-based paints. The Environmental Home Center in Seattle
sells an insulation made from denim scraps and another made from 100
per cent 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.
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