IKEA is Using Packaging Made out of Mushrooms

@TrueActivist

One of the largest furniture brands in the world has made it their mission to cut down on packaging waste. I had written a post several weeks ago about IKEA – and my love for the company as a whole – and it makes me so happy to see this. Now, the article I had found was from about 6 months ago, and I haven’t been to an actual store of theirs in that time frame. So I can’t back up my findings just yet. But let me get to it: packaging made of mushrooms.

Sounds kind of freaky. But also really really cool. The process goes something like this:

agricultural byproducts such as husk, oat hulls and cotton burrs, are pressed into a desired shape that can fit around items to be packaged. Then, it is seeded with mushroom spores that sprout mycelium (a root structure) after a few days. The mycelium threads rapidly through the structure and binds it together to form a shock-resistant and durable packaging material. The last step is to heat-treat the material to kill spores in order to arrest further growth of the fungus.

Medium

I recently posted about different plastic and their processes. So as someone who knows the basics on that, I find it extremely fascinating reading the above information. I can imagine this might take a lot longer to make (who knows how rapidly mushroom spores actually grow; I’ll have to research that another time) than a typical injection molded piece. But as an alternative to styrofoam – which is ungodly terrible for the environment – it’s a huge step in the right direction.

As a small tangent, if you’re interested in learning about a young boy who recently invented a way to recycle styrofoam, then watch this short TED talk! Super cool.

So, besides the biodegradable factor, what are the benefits to mushroom packaging? Here’s a few Medium listed:

  • It uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production.
  • It produces 90% less carbon emissions than produced during plastic manufacture.
  • The total amount of carbon dioxide component in atmosphere remains almost undisturbed by growing fungi-based packaging. Fungi uses up carbon dioxide that gets incorporated into the packaging material. On disposal, packaging material gets decomposed or composted and returns the carbon dioxide back into the soil.
  • It decomposes with 30–90 days. Even if it is ingested by organisms, it has no dangerous side effects, although it has no nutritional benefits either.
  • Alternative packaging is a lucrative economic avenue. The global market for sustainable packaging is poised to reach more than US $142 billion in coming years. Presently, bio-plastics and green materials just constitute 1% of total packaging market share, so there is immense growth potential for manufacturers in this segment.
  • Rural communities can benefit financially by supplying agricultural wastes to mycelium manufacturers.

Hopefully this becomes a lot more accessible to companies worldwide. As IKEA sets the new standard for packaging, I’m curious to see what comes next!

Robotic Walking Fossils

Using a found fossil, roboticists and scientists used the skeletal structure and footprints of this species to create a moving model. Watch the video above to see the complete process. Really interesting way of tracing back (reverse engineering is their terminology) millions of years of science.

Even more interesting than the video, is the website that let’s anyone explore the different animations and algorithms that were tested in this experiment. I ended up spending quite a few minutes going through the different selection options like spine curvature, body height, and more. Highly recommend you check it out here!

If you have time, and a lot of interest in this stuff, here’s a link to the academic paper that was published. Enjoy!

3D Printed Hearts are a Scientific Breakthrough

Piggybacking off of a recent 3D printing post of mine, there is a big story in the news today. A university in Israel has officially printed the first biomimetic heart in history. I am not someone who is adept at scientific terminology, so I highly suggest you watch the short video above.

I also came across this very – VERY – in depth academic journal that outlines the process for this technology. If you’re interested in knowing the nitty gritty details, it was a great read. Definitely over my head, but I think it’s extremely interesting trying to understand reading material that is out of your comfort zone.

The scientists in the video said the blood-pumping actions that a normal heart would do itself, is still a few years away for the 3D printed one they created. However, they did elude to the fact that biomedical 3D printing is a largely unmapped territory that could become very successful in the near future. There is amazing stuff on the horizon people!

Why are People so Obsessed with Space?

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. Today, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers reveal that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.
@national.science.foundation

It’s a genuine question, no? As someone (like I’ve mentioned before) who isn’t all that fanatic about the moon and stars and planets, and well, space, it’s hard for me to grasp the crazed excitement some people feel. Until now.

I suppose it’s the whole mystery of space that doesn’t excite me. Or should I say, it overwhelms me in such a way, I find it incomprehensible for me to begin to understand it. I’m an avid learner, but for some reason, outer space seems like it would suck up all my time. The pun was intended there, because today, for the first time in history, humans have taken a picture of a black hole.

That’s the fuzzy image you see above. Kind of boring right? Well, watch this video if you want to be able to grasp the sheer size and distance of what we’re talking about here.

So why does this interest me and space in general doesn’t? I have no idea yet. It’s almost finals week for me at school, so my life is the only thing I’m concerned about. Sounds stupid and conceited, I know. The world revolves around each student at college during finals. Everything that happens to me in the next couple of weeks is either a success or detriment. There is practically no gray area (wow I’m killing it today). When I was reading a few articles about this black hole today, I started to get this overwhelmed feeling.

I’m the kind of person that wants to know everything about a topic. If there’s a hyperlink in an article, I click it. Which typically leads me to another article within another hyperlink, leading me to another and another and another. You get the picture. So when I set out to learn about a subject (yes, I understand there are way too many things above my level of humble knowledge to truly know everything about a topic) I’m in it for the long haul.

When I say space overwhelms me, it’s the one topic I’ve avoided for years because I know how incredibly expansive it is (figuratively and literally, Sydney). It’s a foolish reason not to research something, but I just want to do it justice. For example, this black hole scientists took a picture of today, is so large that it’s almost the size of our entire universe. Now, because I don’t know a lot about space, I can’t even comprehend that. People who know a lot about space can barely do it.

It makes you feel so incredibly small and useless at times. Which is maybe why people are so fascinated by space. My finals week is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. And yet, they could also shape the rest of my life pretty dramatically. I’m not even trying to exaggerate here. This doesn’t mean I can blow everything off because “in a couple of years I’ll be gone and nothing will matter.” Why not? I’m gonna pull the classic parent move here and just say, “Because I said so.”

The fascination the world has expressed over this black hole news today just goes to show you how little we know. But that’s not a bad thing in my eyes. If you want to somewhat understand what this image is really showing us, here’s a good comprehensive video. Have a wonderful time getting sucked into (sorry, I’ done) all of the content of this stuff.