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A renewable bio-based material that enables efficient, cost-effective production of high-quality insulation, packaging, dry-wall, and other building materials

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Mycotaff (A renewable bio-based material that enables efficient, cost-effective production of high-quality insulation, packaging, dry-wall, and other building materials)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2018-09-30

Construction and the related materials and technology are harmful both to the environment and the profitability of companies employing them. For example, producing one ton of cement generates 900kg of carbon dioxide, accounting for about 88% of the carbon emission of concrete, itself roughly 180kg of CO2 per ton of concrete. The dust produced by the cement and concrete industries also produces localized damage to the ozone layer, and further environmental pollution issues. The weight and transport requirements of concrete and other building materials such as gypsum board (which we seek to replace completely), further contribute to embodied energy in the process.

A measure of the energy consumed with the production of a building, from mining the gypsum and other materials for plasterboard and concrete production etc., to the transport and installation of materials (e.g. concrete pours, welding, etc.). Some measures, e.g. Cradle-to-Grave Embodied Energy also accounts for demolition costs. Though annual energy use and carbon emissions by homes and other buildings has reduced, initial embodied energy has not kept up (mining, processing, transport, and use in construction). This is shown in a study by Lund University, which found that the initial embodied energy of a low-energy building was as much as 40% of the energy the building would consume over its 50-year lifespan.

Mycotaff is a recyclable, biodegradable biomaterial produced from and bound together with mycelia mushroom material. The natural components that make up the material combine to provide high performance characteristics that make it ideal for building infrastructure, insulation, packaging and various other applications. It boasts innovative material features, environmental benefits and novel waste utilisation techniques.

There are just four critical steps towards being able to secure market entry for Mycotaff. These are:

1) Certify the material to European standards for:
a. Structural building materials.
b. Fire safety.
c. Chemical emissions.
d. CE Marking.

2) Run pilot production in-house in order to design a scale-up process for future contract manufacturers.

3) Carry out a pilot trial in association with ETH Zurich.

4) Begin large-scale production with manufacturing contractors.
In the briefest summary, our feasibility assessment led to narrowing the focus of our commercialisation project.

We assessed the building materials market and came to the conclusion that due to our steps towards TRL6, this was the most viable entry point to the global biomaterials sector. We identified the key performance criteria for optimum growing of mycelia mushrooms for our pilot trial, and reached out to a development partner which would be able to certify our product to standards we have achieved under controlled circumstances.

This certification would allow us to enter the market, but in the course of the feasibility study we also identified the opportunity to undertake a pilot trial with a public sector body in the EU. This would allow for a trial small-enough to be easily funded, but sufficiently large and developed to be “industrially relevant”. This would allow us to prepare a case study and approach future customers from a stronger, more proactive position.
Material features include Class A fire resistance, 10 times lighter than gypsum or brick, comparably durable to traditional materials, and buoyant due to its low density of 0.64kg/m3. The material has a low U-value of 0.16W/m2K making it suitable for use as insulation.

Production is quick and is up to 80% cheaper than conventional alternatives (gypsum, brick, etc.). In addition, there are strong environmental and societal values associated. It is fully biodegradable; free of harmful chemicals and toxins; made from 100% renewable material; and requires little energy to produce. It also preserves the fungi life cycle as it decomposes allowing for sustainable manufacturing. The material enables local, cheap production of building materials using agricultural waste of low economic value. Purchase of this waste provides European farmers with additional income. The lucrative markets of drywall boards and insulation will be the initial focus due to simple production methods and their high added value.

The newly developed mycelium-based composite material has the potential to revolutionize the construction sector, which has not changed significantly over the past decades. The technology’s innovative solution of producing composite building materials from vegetable waste bound together with mushroom mycelia, addresses a range of economic, environmental and socio-cultural issues. This low-cost, sustainable process is the source of the material’s superior mechanical performance and material properties.
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