New York-based Ecovative Design is no stranger to accolades from PopSci, having garnered an Invention Award and a Best of What’s New mention in recent years, not to mention a shout-out in our latest homage to bio-inspired design. So allow us to bestow yet more praise upon the eco-friendly foam maker for their latest endeavor: making automobile components out of mushrooms.
Ecovative’s chief innovation is a foam made of mycelia (mushroom roots) and agricultural wastes like seed husks and other throwaway organics that can replace styrofoam and polystyrenes in a variety of applications, like packaging materials and home insulation. Now the young company is teaming with Ford to replace the petroleum based foams and insulators in dashboards, bumpers, and door panels to make at least part of the automobile compostable.Ford, to its credit, is looking to cut down on about 30 pounds of petrol-based foams in its automobiles, and has explored a handful of more eco-friendly options. Ecovative’s foam offered Ford several advantages; aside from being cost competitive with petroleum-based products, it is also fireproof and waterproof. And, when buried at the end of its life, Ecovative’s foam will decompose in about a month.
Ecovative still has some production challenges to iron out--in order to fullfill its goal of rendering styrofoam and polystyrene products obsolete, the company (which has about 30 employees) will have to show that it is capable of growing its mycelium products in industrially sustainable quantities, and to a quality and consistency that allows companies like Ford to pass rigorous safety reviews.
But with $4 million in grants and competition winnings to help the company further refine its production process and find more potential applications for its mycelium-based foam, expect to see it sprouting up in more places.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.