ECO SPEAKS CLE

Mycelia and Mycotecture with Chris Maurer - Redhouse Studio

May 07, 2024 Guest: Chris Maurer Episode 55
Mycelia and Mycotecture with Chris Maurer - Redhouse Studio
ECO SPEAKS CLE
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ECO SPEAKS CLE
Mycelia and Mycotecture with Chris Maurer - Redhouse Studio
May 07, 2024 Episode 55
Guest: Chris Maurer

Can you build a house with mushrooms? You can if you are Chris Maurer, an architect, a mycologist, and a visionary. Chris is the Principal Architect at Redhouse Studio, an architecture firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Chris and his partners are working to revolutionize how we house ourselves, not with bricks and mortar but with bio-bricks, a carbon-sequestering fusion of fungi mycelium and plant waste. This regenerative, humanitarian-focused "mycotecture" can grow buildings on and off our planet. Mycotecture refers to the use of mushrooms and other fungi for architectural purposes. In this episode, Chris introduces us to the possibilities of the fungi kingdom in creating sustainable building materials. Chris's work is far-reaching. His MycoHAB project in Namibia uses mycotecture to convert waste bush into food and housing. His Off-Planet NIAC project with NASA would convert space radiation into buildings on Mars. Back here in Cleveland, his BioCycler technology promises to recycle dilapidated buildings while remediating our lead problem and rebuilding our city. We are captivated by the power and possibilities of fungi, and you will be too. 

Guest:
Chris Maurer, Principal Architect at Redhouse Studio Architecture

Resources:
Follow Redhouse Studio on Instagram and Facebook
More on the MycoHAB project in Namibia
More on growing buildings on Mars
More on the BioCycler using fungi to remediate waste and rebuild our city.
Watch the Fantastic Fungi documentary.

Follow us:
https://www.facebook.com/ecospeakscle
https://www.instagram.com/ecospeakscle

Contact us:
hello@ecospeakscle.com


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Can you build a house with mushrooms? You can if you are Chris Maurer, an architect, a mycologist, and a visionary. Chris is the Principal Architect at Redhouse Studio, an architecture firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Chris and his partners are working to revolutionize how we house ourselves, not with bricks and mortar but with bio-bricks, a carbon-sequestering fusion of fungi mycelium and plant waste. This regenerative, humanitarian-focused "mycotecture" can grow buildings on and off our planet. Mycotecture refers to the use of mushrooms and other fungi for architectural purposes. In this episode, Chris introduces us to the possibilities of the fungi kingdom in creating sustainable building materials. Chris's work is far-reaching. His MycoHAB project in Namibia uses mycotecture to convert waste bush into food and housing. His Off-Planet NIAC project with NASA would convert space radiation into buildings on Mars. Back here in Cleveland, his BioCycler technology promises to recycle dilapidated buildings while remediating our lead problem and rebuilding our city. We are captivated by the power and possibilities of fungi, and you will be too. 

Guest:
Chris Maurer, Principal Architect at Redhouse Studio Architecture

Resources:
Follow Redhouse Studio on Instagram and Facebook
More on the MycoHAB project in Namibia
More on growing buildings on Mars
More on the BioCycler using fungi to remediate waste and rebuild our city.
Watch the Fantastic Fungi documentary.

Follow us:
https://www.facebook.com/ecospeakscle
https://www.instagram.com/ecospeakscle

Contact us:
hello@ecospeakscle.com


Diane Bickett:

You're listening to EcoSpeak CLE, where the eco-curious explore the unique and thriving environmental community here in Northeast Ohio. My name is Diane Bickett and my producer is Greg Rotuno. Together, we bring you inspiring stories from local sustainability leaders and invite you to connect, learn and live with our community and planet in mind. Hello friends, it's a beautiful spring day here in Cleveland and we're coming to you from Red House Studio. It's an architecture firm located in the Ohio City Firehouse and this is not a traditional architecture studio, and its founder, chris Maurer, is not a traditional architect. Red House Studio is pioneering new, sustainable and regenerative ways to grow buildings on and off our planet. It's called microtexture, which refers to the use of mushrooms and other fungi for architectural purposes. Please stay with us for a fascinating conversation about the potential of fungi to create the building materials of our future. Welcome, chris.

Chris Maurer:

Thank you, thanks for having me.

Diane Bickett:

Thanks for joining us.

Chris Maurer:

So, to our listeners, I'm holding what's called what Chris calls a biobrick, which is something he invented, and it's made from mushrooms or mycelium, right, right, it's a composite of both plant material and fungal material. So what happens is we have, you know, a plant that is usually a waste product or byproduct from another process, either agriculture or industrial process, and then we'll grow fungal mycelium on that, which is kind of the root structure of mushroom-producing organisms, and it binds it together, and so all we need to do is really press it and heat it and compact it into a masonry unit and we have what's called a biobrick.

Diane Bickett:

And it's very hard, like I'm knocking on it.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, your listeners can't see it, but if you listen, it sounds a lot like wood, and that's basically what we're looking at is it's a woody uh type block. It's the plant material, uh has that woody characteristic to it, the lignin and the cellulose that plants have, um, and then what happens is the mycelium uh actually starts to degrade the lignin, which is the binder that holds the that cellulose together, and replaces it with the fungal organism, which is very chitin-rich, and the chitin from the fungi is, you know, very similar to what insects and crustaceans have as their exoskeletons. So it's this really, you know, polymeric material, and it's a really good way to cement the material back together, so it reconstitutes the woody material. Wow, I can tell this is going to be a really good way to cement the material back together, so it reconstitutes the woody material.

Diane Bickett:

Wow, I can tell this is going to be a really interesting conversation. So this brick itself it sounds like wood. It looks like wood, but it would replace certain things in the building process. And we'll get to that when we talk about your biocycler project, which you're trying to launch here in Cleveland. But I'm curious how your research into mycelium started, since you're an architect by training.

Chris Maurer:

Right, I'm an architect and I've worked a number of years in Africa, so I was living and working in Malawi for a number of years and also in Rwanda. Living and working in Malawi for a number of years and also in Rwanda and having that experience working in limited resource environments was really instrumental in my development as an architect and kind of understanding ways to leverage both the design process and the construction process to make as much positive impact as possible and to use as little resources as possible. When I repatriated, when I came back to the United States, I tried to continue that ethos in my architecture and came to realize that we're always in limited resource environments we're just not really aware of it here where we can go to hardware stores and lumber yards and buy lumber and concrete blocks All of those things are readily accessible here but what we're not really considering is the environmental footprint of those materials and how damaging they are. They really shouldn't be used in a limited resource environment, which is planet Earth. They really shouldn't be used in a limited resource environment, which is planet Earth. And so we looked for different ways that you know architecture could regenerate and came across this.

Chris Maurer:

You know concept of microtexture and had seen some artists and some material producers that were making materials from mycelium and started to look into the process and understand that what you do is you from mycelium. And started to look into the process and understand that what you do is you grow mycelium on different substrates and then you can make manufacture different products out of that. Having just worked in Africa, I wondered why the process for growing mycelium, which is the same as growing mushrooms, wasn't producing food and materials at the same time, and that's when I started coming into this concept of creating food and materials in the same vertically integrated process. And that's basically what's become our Mycohab project. Now In Africa, we're using waste biomass and we're creating food and buildings in the same process.

Diane Bickett:

Okay. Well, it also has implications for here in Cleveland, for dealing with our dilapidated buildings and our lead problem. But we'll get to that. But I think we need to back up and talk a little bit about fungi Before we started recording Greg's like is it we were trying to figure out, is it fungi or fungi, or fungi? So we're going to go with fungi today, which is a plural of fungus, right?

Chris Maurer:

That's right. Yeah, I like to use fungi if there's a you know dad joke involved.

Diane Bickett:

And you are a dad. So that, yeah, I'm a dad.

Chris Maurer:

I usually default to the fungi, though, that's you know kind of the way we talk about it.

Diane Bickett:

Okay, so when I think of a fungus, I think of a mushroom. Are all mushrooms funguses, or is all I think? I read all.

Chris Maurer:

That's true.

Diane Bickett:

A mushroom is a fungus, but not all fungi are mushrooms.

Chris Maurer:

That's right. Yeah, that's a good way to put it. So you have a mushroom-producing organism, is going to be a fungus. But there are different types of fungi that don't produce mushrooms. You can think of yeast, that's one that doesn't produce mushrooms. Molds, a lot of times won't produce mushrooms. It doesn't produce mushrooms. Molds a lot of times won't produce mushrooms. The fungal organism itself is often either singular or becomes a multicellular organism that has a mycelium web to it, and so mycelia are basically like the roots of mushrooms or the roots of the fungal organism. But you know, that's how you would think of it visually, but actually academically it's better to think of the mycelium as the organism and the mushroom as the fruiting body of that organism. So when you compare it to a tree, it's not just the roots of the tree, it's actually the roots and the tree and the leaves, everything but the fruit, like the apple or the orange of that tree. So the mushroom is that apple or orange.

Diane Bickett:

Okay, so all the real work is kind of going on through the mycelium. Essentially, I learned that fungi are not in the plant kingdom or the animal kingdom and they're actually more closely aligned with the animal kingdom, which is fascinating because they're very intelligent. I learned all this from watching Fantastic Fungi on Netflix the other night, which is a highly recommended show, documentary to watch. But I think that scientists and researchers are just beginning to tap into the possibilities of fungi to teach us, to heal us and to heal the planet, and so I think you're on to something. So tell us about sort of the mycelium as a connector and what it does in your process. What it does in your process, how it helps you decompose or make the bricks that you're doing, and how is your research connected to all of this.

Chris Maurer:

Okay, yeah, so you mentioned it's a different kingdom altogether. There are really three ways in which fungi grow. They can be symbiotic with the plant kingdom, and that's, you know, things like burrells or different species of mushrooms that grow along with trees, and, to your point about them being connective tissue between different things, that's what kind of creates this connection between trees and forests and actually live with them symbiotically and work together to kind of even help trees communicate, which is fascinating. So I do recommend fantastic fungi too, to learn more about that. There's also parasitic fungi, which can kill organisms, and that includes animals like insects in some cases, and there are pathogens that actually attack humans too, but usually it's going to be a plant that they're going to be parasitic of, and so they will kill trees.

Chris Maurer:

And then the third kind is saprophytic fungi, which are the kind that actually grow on dead matter. So if a tree falls in the forest, it doesn't just pile up, it would pile up if there were no fungi to attack that. And what fungi do is they break down the dead matter that are in the forest and create, you know, turn trees into soil basically. So cultivators, mushroom cultivators, usually work with these saprophytic fungi, and what you can do is just take dead matter, dead plant matter, including straw from grain farming or sawdust from an industrial byproduct, from like a sawmill. You can take that sawdust or that straw and then you can grow fungi on that, grow mycelium on that, and that's how cultivators will actually grow mushrooms. So they'll take that biological biomass, they'll pasteurize it to kill all the living organisms that are probably already growing on that and then they'll take it into a laboratory and inoculate it with just a little bit of mycelium. That gives it free reign over that substrate to grow Okay.

Diane Bickett:

So just they need a few spores and the mycelium just does its thing.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, you usually start with either a liquid culture or what's called grain spawn, and that's mycelium that's growing on very nutrient-rich grain things like rice berries or wheat berries and things like that but that's mixed in the lab with the substrate that's been pasteurized and then what happens is the mycelium will start to create an interconnected web of material around all of those particles of either sawdust or straw and kind of connect together, and after they've fully colonized is the term that's used for that the substrate they will start to grow the mushrooms.

Chris Maurer:

You usually add a little bit of fresh air exchange, you open up the container that it's growing in so that you get more oxygen in there, add some humidity to the room and then the mushrooms start to fruit because they see that as the trigger for growing the reproductive organ, if you will, which is the mushroom which releases spores, and so that's the trigger that makes that happen.

Chris Maurer:

So you know, this is, you know, well known, it's been done for, you know, centuries, basically people being able to grow saprophytic mushrooms on dead matter like this, and then usually what happens is the cultivator will harvest those mushrooms and then they will throw away what's left over, which is the mycelium that's binding together all of this woody material that's left over, together, all of this woody material that's in, you know, leftover. What we found is that you can use that for any number of things. You can, you know, break it up and reconstitute it in any kind of shape and it'll form that shape and you can actually have, you know, solid objects, like you know, you saw the skull that we've made out of it and we have some sculptures and some art that's been made from that.

Chris Maurer:

But if you take that material and you form it into a brick and heat and compact that, then that's when you get these stronger materials like we're showing here. That has strength that's very similar to concrete. It's strong as wood. It has a lot of the same properties as wood, which includes insulation.

Chris Maurer:

It's in many cases we've actually, you know, isolated some of the bioperformative aspects of that, which include remediation as it's growing, and we've even you know, we're working with NASA now on making space radiation attenuating materials out of that too. One of the things that is really impressive about the fungal kingdom is that melanin-rich fungi are actually able to transduct ionizing radiation. That's the type of radiation you would find off planet Earth ionizing radiation so that's the type of radiation you would find off planet Earth. Outside the Earth's magnetic shield you'll get X-rays and gamma rays and particle radiation, which includes galactic cosmic rays. We found that the fungal materials are very good at blocking from that because of the melanin they produce, firstly, and then some of the other biochemicals that are involved in the growth of the fungus.

Diane Bickett:

Holy cow.

Greg Rotuno:

Congratulations. You just said the coolest thing that's ever been said on this podcast.

Chris Maurer:

No doubt Space radiation fungi.

Greg Rotuno:

Yeah, I have a couple of follow-up questions, if I may. Oh absolutely, and I don't know if Di, if you were going to talk about this at some point, but what's like the size of the operation to do, like to produce these materials at scale?

Chris Maurer:

well, um, so that's a good question because we're in the process of scaling some of these projects. We we have a company in africa called mycohab that again it's turning this uh, encroacher species, this bush that's causing desertification in namibia, into both food and housing. We're growing mushrooms on that and we're using the waste from the mushroom cultivation to make these very large micro blocks that, in this case, we've actually made the world's first structural building out of those blocks, and so we have a staff of about eight people that are working there, and you know, some of some folks are working on the farm, some folks are working in the manufacturing part of that, but we're able to make enough blocks to do three or four houses a year with that type of scale. What we want to do is get that to the larger scale, where a lot of this is more automated. We have a larger cultivation center and a larger manufacturing center, and then our hope would be to do dozens, ideally hundreds, of homes per year using that, which would be a further stepping stone to doing thousands and then eventually licensing that process to others and doing millions. The reason why we want this to scale so prolifically is because there are millions of tons of biomass available in Namibia that need to be thinned from the grasslands because this bush is really causing environmental havoc there and because 25% of the population is living in informal settlements and there's a huge need for housing.

Chris Maurer:

And the third reason is these materials actually store the carbon dioxide that those that bush drew down in its you know, in its growth cycle. So normally what would happen is people would take this bush and they would burn it to get rid of it, and that's going to release that carbon dioxide into the environment. Other things you can do with it will also release that. Even if it just decays, it's going to release that carbon dioxide which is going to make it carbon neutral because it drew down the CO2, but it's going to release it. When we store it in building materials, you actually have a longer storage of that carbon dioxide and you know, potentially decades, potentially centuries, you can store that CO2 and actually mitigate greenhouse gases.

Chris Maurer:

Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the world's greenhouse gases. If we started adopting these processes that actually store carbon dioxide, you could see manufacturing turn the dial the other direction when it comes to CO2 emissions. We could actually sequester CO2 emissions in the manufacturer of these products, and that's what makes it terribly exciting for me is the fact that we can leverage again architecture and construction to have positive aspects, and that way we kind of regard it as regenerative architecture. Normally, as I mentioned, buildings are responsible for 40% of the world's greenhouse gases. Concrete, aluminum and steel alone are responsible for 23% of the greenhouse gases annually, and so switching to these carbon sequestering processes could have a huge impact on the, on the you know, the building industry's carbon footprint okay, so how did you have another question?

Greg Rotuno:

just one follow-up. So, like having said all that, is it financially less resource intensive than traditional building materials as well?

Chris Maurer:

Yes. So right now, you know we're in research and development. There's a lot of cost that goes into that. We're working, you know, with researchers at MIT and Johns Hopkins and different universities. So you know that makes it kind of expensive what we're doing now. That makes it kind of expensive what we're doing now, but the goal and the business model is that this will actually be a cost-negative product or cost-neutral product. Because in the case of Mycohab, we're producing mushrooms. Those mushrooms can be sold at market and then by the time you have this material, it's basically the waste resource that comes out of that process. All you have to do is compact it and let it sit on a shelf and it's, you know, building material the next day. So it's a very-.

Diane Bickett:

So making food and housing and Very, very inexpensive system, sequestering carbon, all at the same time.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, so in the R&D phase it's not, you know, exactly cheap at this point, but as we scale it to an industrial level, that's one of the economies of scale you get with. That is that the mushroom sales will pay for all of the building materials, and that's why we're kind of looking at a model where these buildings will be humanitarian housing. That's where the need is mostly in Namibia and then we can export the mushroom products to the United States and you can see a tea on the shelf at the supermarket. One of them says we're building houses in Africa, the other one doesn't. You might choose the one that is actually doing the humanitarian work.

Diane Bickett:

I love that your office is right next door to Drink Local Drink Tap Our friend Aaron Huber-Rosen, who works in Uganda, to bring sanitation and water. So the Cleveland connection to Africa is pretty cool.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah.

Diane Bickett:

And the innovative things that you're doing. So you started your work in Namibia with this project, but you're from Canton and you're a Kent State professor and you're an architect and now you're a mycologist. I love that story. How did that all come about? Give us some background.

Chris Maurer:

Okay, yeah, as you mentioned, I grew up in Canton. Then I went to Kent State University for architecture. I got my bachelor and master's degree there, spent a couple semesters in Florence, italy, with their program there, spent a couple semesters in Florence, italy, with their program, and so that you know, got me interested in traveling, seeing the world, learning new, new, you know ways of looking at architecture. After graduating I moved to New York City and worked at Studio MDA for Marcus Tohanci, who was a protege of Zaha Hadid, who's a very famous Pritzker Prize winning architect, and so we were doing lots of different types of designs, a lot of very interesting and expressive architecture for very wealthy people, impressive architecture for very wealthy people. And some of that, some of the architecture, was also at the other end of the scale, where we were doing humanitarian work.

Chris Maurer:

And one of the projects that I was most involved with took me to Malawi and I was the project manager for a school for girls in Malawi and I lived and worked there with my at that time girlfriend currently wife, where she was also the landscape architect project manager on that project. And, you know, that's where you know kind of formed this concept of working in limited resources and actually leveraging them to the best of their ability. When I came back here to Cleveland, I started teaching at Kent State University and we were working with the Developing World Studios, where we were actually spending time talking with folks in Rwanda and Malawi, and that's kind of where we developed this concept for using regarding Cleveland as one of the limited resource environments as well.

Diane Bickett:

I'm excited about what you are doing here in Cleveland because it's got great promise for remediating lead and addressing the dilapidated buildings and also growing literally new buildings. Explain how mycelium can help with Cleveland's lid problem.

Chris Maurer:

Right. So when we go into new areas, we're always looking for what is the, you know, waste product that we would want to turn into, you know, new building material. So in Africa was the the bush we're, you know, looking at. We're looking at different ways of actually converting ionizing radiation, as I mentioned, into building materials when we're working in space. But here in Cleveland what we have is a glut of crumbling infrastructure. We have thousands of houses that are slated for demolition, um. There are hundreds of houses that are torn down, uh every month and that material, um is is too hard to separate into constituent parts that could be recycled, um, so a lot of times it's just put directly into landfills, which, um? You know there's 600 million tons of um, c and D waste that go into landfills every year, which is mostly turning into greenhouse gases in the landfills and causing environmental damage, because there tend to be petrochemicals in that and even heavy metals which are the worst to deal with.

Diane Bickett:

Yeah, many of our C&D landfills construction and demolition debris landfills in our county, cuyahoga County, sit along the Cuyahoga River. So, that's just leaching in there.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, and so one of the things that fungi are actually able to do is to remediate a lot of these toxins. So with the petrochemicals, things that have very long molecule chains, these are hydrocarbons that used to be plants, right, so they're made of the same building blocks and the fungi kind of regard that as the plant material, and what they do is they break them down into smaller molecule chains, which actually makes them safe. So you turn these long polymers into smaller monomers and then they're not dangerous anymore. So it's a basic remediation process that comes from the fungal digestion. What they do is the way fungi digest is they secrete enzymes, and it's an external digestion, and the enzymes actually break down those chemicals.

Chris Maurer:

When it comes to things like heavy metals, those are elemental toxins, so they're really hard to deal with, and so you almost have to do exactly the opposite, which is to pair them with longer molecule chains, to take these atomic toxins like lead or arsenic or cadmium that exist in the built environment, and then the fungi can create these different biochemicals that actually can latch onto them, which make them easier to filter, and that's the easiest way to extract, that is, to filter that, or almost.

Chris Maurer:

There's a term called biomining, where these organisms can kind of seek out those, those metals, and actually extract them, like, like as if they were mining that, that material, or the other thing is to chelate those materials. So these chemicals can actually latch onto the chemical, the elemental toxins like lead, and it makes it so that they're biologically unavailable, and that's not just for people, that includes, you know, vermin. That would, you know, eventually go up the food chain if other microbes or, you know, insects, started eating that material. And then it went to a bird, to a cat, to, you know, all the way up the I don't know why she ate a fly song.

Chris Maurer:

So to keep that out of the food web is very important because, as you mentioned, when they go to landfill a lot of these chemicals are just leaching into the water supply and then getting back into our environment, and so it's important to do that regardless.

Chris Maurer:

But what we're able to do with the biocycler process is to be able to remediate that and turn that into useful goods at the end of the day, because, as I mentioned, the materials are actually safe at the end of this process and we've done some studies that it keeps getting better all the time. And we've done some studies that you know it keeps getting better all the time. We started with, you know, 30% leachate improvement and the most recent studies we did were up to 90% filtration of the lead particles that were in the C&D waste or in the soil waste before it came out. So we plan to get to 100%, and that's kind of the goal here is that either all of the heavy metals will be completely extracted from it or the parts that are left, which are usually parts per million or even parts per billion very, very trace elements that aren't dangerous levels at all, those become chelated so that if they were to somehow come into hand-to-mouth contact with a small child or even an animal, they wouldn't get into the bloodstream of that organism.

Diane Bickett:

Okay, so you mentioned the biocycler. That's a machine or an industrial process?

Chris Maurer:

Yeah.

Diane Bickett:

And where is it? Do you have like a prototype somewhere here in Cleveland?

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, it's a process, more than anything.

Chris Maurer:

And so it's basically very similar to what we're doing in Namibia, where we're using, you know, fungi to create new materials, but instead of food and housing in this regard, it's the remediation and housing. And you know Cleveland, we have four times the incidence of lead poisoning here in Cleveland. So we kind of consider this, you know, ground zero for the need for this type of work. And in the same way that you know, the burning of the Cuyahoga was the impetus for the Clean Air and Water Act and for the creation of the EPA the Clean Air and Water Act and for the creation of the EPA we're hoping that people will see the need here in Cleveland and look into these types of processes that can actually be the impetus for dealing with this problem.

Diane Bickett:

And what organizations are you working with in Cleveland?

Chris Maurer:

Right. So, yeah, we're very fortunate to have a lot of, you know, grassroots foundations and some support that we're working with. The Black Environmental Leaders Association is one. Collective Citizens Organized Against Lead, or CEQL, is another one, and so, you know, we've teamed up on a lot of processes along with Case Western Reserve University and even folks at Johns Hopkins University, where we're doing the scientific research that proves the system, but also trying to scale the processes to the industrial level, where we could be building houses, like we're doing in Africa, using the same processes.

Diane Bickett:

So humanitarian architecture in Africa and in Cleveland.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah.

Diane Bickett:

That's cool. So tell us what you're doing on Mars. I did say on planet and off planet.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, so we're working with NASA through the NIAC program, which is NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, and this is kind of a game-changing technology program to develop habitats that can grow themselves off planet.

Diane Bickett:

Whoa, how does that happen?

Chris Maurer:

So the way we're proposing it now is that there is an inflatable structure that would fill up with gases to kind of inflate into a building on the moon or Mars, but the outer shell of that fills with water and different nutrients. That then would activate some living organisms we have in these small bioreactors that link together. And these bioreactors, you could think of them as like cells in a living organism, but you could also think of them like bricks in a dome, and so they link up together and as they grow they turn into these hard materials like you see in front of you now or that your listeners can hear that become the outer shell of that, and so they have this.

Chris Maurer:

You know, bio performative ability to shield from radiation that I mentioned earlier. This is a concept called radiosynthesis or radiotropism, that is able to transduce ionizing radiation into benign forms of energy, which include heat, which are very useful on cold planets anyway, and they're able to insulate as well gravity and a pressurized vessel that you're living in. You're actually designing a balloon rather than something that needs to deal with weather and gravity. So the tensile fabrics that are involved with the inflatable are the things that are actually the structure of the building, and then the bio-terials that grow within those do the other things that the building needs, and the main things are the thermal insulation, because you have very hot and very cold environments on the moon and Mars, and then you also need that radiation protection, and that radiation is actually the biggest showstopper right now for missions to the moon.

Chris Maurer:

We've had 12 people on the moon. You know, we've had 12 people on the moon and all of them were very lucky to not get a huge radiation dose from. You know a solar event that happened. Never thought about that. The longest stay on the moon was, you know, 72 hours or so, 75 hours, I think, and they just missed a solar wind event that could have been deadly for them not immediately, but could have led to cancer down the line.

Diane Bickett:

Wow, so these would just grow themselves. Essentially, when you get them there, probably cheaper than sending construction materials to Mars.

Chris Maurer:

We joke that you just grow your own house, just add water. Because the thing is it costs a lot of money to send anything even to low Earth orbit, as we do with the space station, to get things to Mars. You know, some estimates are $100,000. Some are, you know, a million dollars to get a pound of material. So that's a can of soda. You know it costs a million dollars to get that, at least to Mars it'll cost more than that probably. And so to be able to send just grams of material that then grow into tons of material by adding water which you source on the moon or Mars, you're saving trillions of dollars potentially.

Chris Maurer:

And so that that was the first reason that that I think NASA was interested in this idea. And then the other thing is the space radiation protection that you can get from these bioperformative materials which we're constantly testing. We've sent some materials to the space station already and they were flown on the outside of the space station for six months at a time, and then we bring them back and we see what kind of degradation they had. Some materials don't make it back because of the radiation dosage, because of the atomic oxygen that they receive there, but our materials came back with very superficial damage to them. There were micrometeoroids, which are basically tiny little bullets that are flying through space all the time, actually embedded in the materials, so they were able to stop that.

Diane Bickett:

So did you go to NASA to see this? Did you get to see the?

Chris Maurer:

Well, yeah, they were done here in Cleveland at NASA Glenn. They were packaged here, then sent down to Houston where they did some more check-in and some testing and things like that. They won't just send anything to space. So there's, you know, kind of some rattling testing and some outgassing testing and things like that. They make sure that they're not just going to explode into space. And then they were, you know, launched from the East Coast somewhere I forget exactly where they were launched from In an uncrewed mission and then the materials were met by the folks on the space station and we have some photographs of the astronauts there kind of unpacking them, and we also have photographs of them on the outside of the space station and you can actually see the atmosphere of the Earth in the background of some of these photos and it's really just stunning.

Diane Bickett:

So they haven't come back yet? No, they have. They have yeah.

Chris Maurer:

I got some some of the cutoffs here, but they're currently at the University of Akron. They're doing some testing there. Dr Ali Dineshwala and his team are looking at them because he does research into melanin and, as I mentioned, melanin is probably the biochemical within these fungal organisms that does the most in the space radiation production, and we're also working with a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, rodames Cordero, who is also an expert in melanin production and melanin studies, and so they're both looking at this and writing the papers. I just get to help make the samples.

Diane Bickett:

I don't write the papers web because you're, I mean it's, it's just reaching out into so many places and and into so many research institutions and nasa, and it's just, yeah, it absolutely is I meet a lot of fun guys and fun gals.

Diane Bickett:

I was waiting for a fun joke, gotcha I feel like mushrooms are having their moment too, with food and coffee and all that stuff we talked about. I'm looking at a packet of tea you gave me from Four Sigmatic. It's made from reishi mushrooms. So many benefits to the human body to consume. We're finding anyway to consume Lion's Mane for you. You said mental clarity, and then what were some of the other?

Chris Maurer:

Well, yeah, can we?

Diane Bickett:

leave some parting thoughts on how individuals can get acquainted.

Chris Maurer:

Oh, absolutely yeah. So Four Sigmatic is one, mudwater is another. Those are kind of higher-end products where they have different adaptogenic organisms or different adaptogenic mushrooms and plants.

Diane Bickett:

And what does that mean adaptogenic?

Chris Maurer:

It's basically any kind of food that has a positive medical process. That happens so with the reishi and the turkey tail, which are two types of mushrooms that go into teas. They have a lot of triterpenoids and beta-glucans and these are biochemicals that when they're in your body they kind of mimic the effect of being sick. They don't make you sick, but it tells your immune system to hey, wake up there. You know there's something in here that you need to address, and then that actually is kind of a workout for your immune system, and so they're considered immune system boosting chemicals that come naturally from those mushrooms. There are some claims around lion's mane of stimulating brain power. They look like little brains, so that's good too, but yeah.

Chris Maurer:

I think we all need some of that I'm sure the reishi is also considered to help with sleeping. So that's one I do for sure, and there are some studies around turkey tail actually being helpful, along with whatever your doctor recommends for cancer treatment, and it may or may not be directly related to the cancer or just helping you feel better as you go through cancer treatment, but there's, you know, a lot of theories on that and a lot of research on that and it's, you know, definitely worth looking into and trying if you're into, you know, some of these adaptogenic or homeopathic. You know methods of you know treating your body.

Diane Bickett:

Do you think the medical community is coming along when it comes to accepting?

Chris Maurer:

Absolutely, I think the fungal kingdom.

Chris Maurer:

Absolutely, and I think you know a lot of it has to do with the psychedelics and there is really great research at Johns Hopkins now around the psychedelics being a treatment for depression, for addiction and other things like that. And so you know it's medically studied and you know very clear benefits that come from that. And it's not just, you know, tripping on your own. It's part of a process that you do with doctors and there's a, you know, a speaking part to that too and like a therapy part that goes along with it.

Chris Maurer:

A lot of great documentaries about that treating PTSD. Adaptogenic things that I mentioned, like the, you know, the triterpenoids and the beta-glucans and all of those chemicals are scientifically proven to do certain things that can be very useful if used correctly and if you need them.

Diane Bickett:

Yeah, well, if you need your brain rewired.

Chris Maurer:

Yeah.

Diane Bickett:

Well, this has been fascinating. Greg, do you have any final questions?

Greg Rotuno:

No, I've been holding my jaw up the whole time on the floor if I wasn't. Yeah, this has been fascinating, Greg. Do you have any final questions? No, I've been holding my jaw up the whole time because it would be on the floor if I wasn't. Yeah, this is I'm enamored.

Diane Bickett:

Yeah, super interesting. So I'd like to cover this again with some mycologists and maybe do some foraging, who knows? Well, thank you so much.

Chris Maurer:

Chris.

Diane Bickett:

Do you want to?

Chris Maurer:

Yeah, when it comes to foraging, I can recommend. You know, we're right upstairs from Larder Delicatessen right now and Jeremy Umansky leads foraging classes out of Larder, so check them out too if that's something you want to get into. And I was just down there. He had some golden oyster mushrooms which are. They're beautiful and it's going to be on the menu this week, so stop by.

Diane Bickett:

Oh cool, I'm so glad you mentioned that. Well, we will.

Greg Rotuno:

We hope you've enjoyed this episode of EcoSpeak CLE. You can find our full catalog of episodes on Spotify, apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes are available the first and third Tuesday of each month. Please follow EcoSpeak CLE on Facebook and Instagram and become part of the conversation. If you would like to send us feedback and suggestions, or if you'd like to become a sponsor of EcoSpeak CLE, you can email us at hello at ecospeakclecom. Stay tuned for more important and inspiring stories to come.

What's a biobrick?
MycoHAB Carbon Sequestering Building Materials
About Chris
Mycotecture's Promise for Cleveland
Biocycler Technology and Cleveland's Lead Problem
Mycotecture on Mars
Mushrooms for Health