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The Mycelium Mushroom Chair is a fanciful proof of concept, but with proper controls, the fungus/straw combo could be molded into unique shapes and potentially replace the styrofoam blocks that surround televisions and other electronics during shipping. Photo: Sjoerd_Sijsma

Aside from the occasional hookah-smoking caterpillar, mushrooms are rarely used as seating. However, if Dutch designer Eric Klarenbeek has his way we’ll soon see furniture fabricated from fungi at IKEA. His latest project, the Mycelium Mushroom Chair, combines the precision of 3-D printers with the emergent behavior of biological organisms to create a recliner that can support your weight while expanding your mind.mush-07-660x578

The chair’s sinuous curves look organic, but were all painstakingly specified with CAD software and 3-D printed as hollow skins using a corn-based bioplastic. Pellets made from straw filled the cavities and a starter solution of liquified spores was fed into the construct. Over a period of five days the eukaroytes fed off the nutrients in the straw and infiltrated the tiny gaps between the straw pellets and plastic skin, acting like an organic glue that bound the chair together and transformed a flimsy husk into a sturdy household item. Tiny perforations in the surface gave way and allowed mushrooms to sprout, creating an unplanned organic upholstery.

Klarenbeek studied design in college, but got a crash course in mycology, aka mushroom cultivation, when he agreed to take part in an outdoor exhibition at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. The goal was to bring the schools of art and life sciences closer together, a mission Klarenbeek interpreted quite literally” “I told this team of professors we’d like to 3-D print living plant cells.”

After getting a feel for the potential of additive manufacturing the faculty pointed Klarenbeek to the “Mushroom Research Group” a crack team of professors fixated on fungus. They suggested he use mycelium, a species that grows quickly, can thrive on common materials, and is surprisingly strong and dense when dried.  Read more heremush-09-660x482 mushroom-04-Johan_Baars_WUR_Wageningen_University-660x495 mush-06-660x811 mush-02-660x564 mush-01-660x524 mush-03-660x543

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