The Materials Book

150 Mushroom Materials Named under the Sun Phil Ross The sun rains its wealth of light upon the earth as it has for many billions of years. A highly efficient carpet of photosynthetic trees and plants weaves this energy into structured material reserves of lignin, cellulose, and other sugars. The accumulated wealth bound within these organic materials is released and dispersed as they are consumed by other organisms. For a long time people have benefited from plants and animals as a way to increase material production, and now mushrooms are being harnessed as an engine for more efficient and less polluting forms of manufacturing. With this knowledge one thing is certain: the future is rotten! For the most part, mushrooms live as a colony of interwoven threadlike cells. They thrive by decomposing and consuming dead plants; the mesh-like body of the mushroom breaks down plant material and then rearranges it in plastic configurations and chemical organizations within its own networked body. This transformation takes place on both the micro and the macro scale, making mushrooms well suited to process the huge volumes of organic waste produced each year from agriculture, forestry, and farming. Mushroom materials were first developed as an artistic medium to grow temporary sculptural forms. The process of growing mushrooms is not unlike making bread; it is a type of fermentation, the same process used to transform sugars into alcohol and milk into yogurt. The primary technology that drives commercial fermentation is pasteurization, the practice of steam-

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