MycoKnit: Lightweight and Biodegradable Material

Ali Ghazvinian | Andre West | Benay Gürsoy | Farzaneh Oghazian | Felecia Davis | John A. Pecchia

This project was supported by the SOM Foundation, Research Awards 2021.

Mycelium is the vegetative root of fungi by which fungi absorb nutrients from organic matter and bind them. The treatment of mycelium results in a foam-like composite material that is lightweight and biodegradable, called mycelium-based composites. The material properties of this composite material depend on various factors, such asthe substrate mixture, the fungal species used for inoculation, and the environmental conditions of growth. By modifying these factors, it is possible to obtain graded materials that have different properties. Furthermore, this composite material can be shaped using formworks, as well as additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques. In recent years, various scholars have explored the use of mycelium-based composites as load-bearing structural agents in architecture (Heisel et al., 2017; Benjamin et al., 2014).

Photo by Ian Danner
Photo by Ian Danner

Knitted textiles can be made by generating loops called stitches on a continuous yarn and moving the yarn through these stitches iteratively. Knits have a multi-directional behavior that is derived from their special structure and formation process. Due to their flexible and multi-directional behaviors, textiles – and specifically knitted textiles – have been used to develop seamless tension structures with varying complexities. Textiles, in general, have been used as formworks for concrete, resin, etc. to fabricate composite structural systems (Scherer, 2019; Pal et al., 2020; Popescu et al., 2018; Popescu et al., 2020).

In this research, our goal is to explore the use of knitted textiles made by natural yarns as formworks, reinforcement, and nutrients for the mycelium to develop novel mycelium-based composite structures that we call MycoKnit. Mycelium and knitted textiles made of natural yarns are both organic systems and, when integrated, can offer a sustainable and biodegradable material and structural system that is strong in both tension and compression. Due to the intrinsic material uncertainties of both the knitted textiles and mycelium-based composites, it is necessary to study their behaviors interdependently. Therefore, as a group of researchers who have been working on knitted textiles and mycelium-based composites independently, we decided to join our efforts and collaborate for this research. This collaboration will enable us to develop design and fabrication workflows for MycoKnit lightweight and biodegradable composite structures.

The team will test the MycoKnit system with a large-scale 1:1 proof-of concept architectural structure. The design will be developed in a Directed Research Studio, which is an advanced studio program in the Department of Architecture at Pennsylvania State University.


References:

Benjamin, D. (2014). “Hi Fy”. Retrieved from http://thelivingnewyork.com/hy-fi.htm, Accessed 11-01-21.

Heisel, F., Lee, J., Schlesier, K., Rippmann, M., Saeidi, N., Javadian, A., . . . Hebel, D. E. (2017). “Design, Cultivation and Application of Load-Bearing Mycelium Components: The MycoTree at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism”. International Journal of Sustainable Energy Development, 6(1), 296-303. doi:10.20533/ijsed.2046.3707.2017.0039

Pal, A., Chan, W. L., Tan, Y. Y., Chia, P. Z., & Tracy, K. J. (2020). “Knit Concrete Formwork”. Paper presented at the Anthropocene, Proceedings of the 25th International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA), Hong Kong.

Popescu, M., Reiter, L., Liew, A., Van Mele, T., Flatt, R. J., & Block, P. (2018). “Building in Concrete with an Ultra-lightweight Knitted Stay-in-place Formwork: Prototype of a Concrete Shell Bridge”. Structures 14, 322-332. doi:10.1016/j.istruc.2018.03.001

Popescu, M., Rippmann, M., Liew, A., Reiter, L., Flatt, R. J., Van Mele, T., & Block, P. (2020). “Structural Design, Digital Fabrication and Construction of the Cable-net and Knitted Formwork of the KnitCandela Concrete Shell”. Structures doi:10.1016/j.istruc.2020.02.013

Scherer, A. L. (2019). Concrete Form[ing]work: “Designing and Simulating Parametrically-Patterned Fabric Formwork for Cast Concrete”. Paper presented at the Matter - Fabrication And Construction 2 - eCAADe 37 / SIGraDi 23