Publication Date

SusChEM: Fungal Based Biopolymer Composites – Understanding the Fundamentals to Optimize the Products
The National Science Foundation (Award ID: CMMI-1362234)
Division of Materials Research, Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials
Award Date: 04/01/14 | Award Amount: $62,509 | Effective Dates: 06/01/2014 – 05/31/2017
Project Personnel: Principal Investigator Ronald Bucinell (Mechanical Engineering)
Project Summary: Renewable and biodegradable materials are a key element to a sustainable planet. Ecovative Design, LLC has created new compostable mycelium-based (fungus) bioplastic/biocomposite materials. The material is grown at room temperature in the dark (thus requiring little energy for processing) and heated/dried to drive off water and inactivate the fungus. These new biodegradable and renewable materials are being sold commercially as replacements for expanded polystyrene and polyethylene foams that are petroleum-based and difficult to recycle or reuse. These fungus-based biopolymers have the potential to be used in additional markets such as transportation and recreation that currently use petroleum-based plastics. To meet that potential, however, the structure/property/processing relationships need to be understood. This award supports fundamental research to provide needed knowledge on how to optimize and tailor the properties of these new materials. The impact of this project, which is a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, and Ecovative, will be to expand the range of applications where highly renewable, compostable, and inexpensive materials can replace petroleum-derived products.