Using mycelium - the vegetative part of the fungus - Ecovative has developed a number of innovations, including an environmentally friendly alternative to expanded polystyrene, used by Dell, for example, to pack its computers and protect them from impact.
Myco Foam is 100% biodegradable and returns to the earth as nutrients. Its manufacture is not dependent on oil, unlike conventional polystyrene. Swedish kit furniture giant Ikea has announced its desire to replace its polystyrene packaging with this material.
Other possible uses include: wood/mushroom interlocking for the construction of indoor furniture without formaldehyde (a harmful product found in some furniture); kits for growing your own mycelium at home; and teddy bears with mushrooms!
Fungi have an underground vegetative part, forming a fairly dense filamentous network, the mycelium.
The American start-up MycoWorks, founded in 2013, considers mushrooms as a material. In October 2016, it developed a process for making "leather" from mushrooms. This method of production is not very polluting, but above all it offers an alternative to the use of animal skins.
To produce it, you need to grow mycelium in a mould with a substrate and organic waste as food. The mycelium will gradually become denser and take the shape of the mould. To obtain the final result, the product is dried and then put in an oven to eliminate all the micro-organisms.
This environmentally friendly, biodegradable, low carbon footprint leather is promising, especially since the production obtained from mycelium is obviously much faster (and less deadly 🙂 than that with a cow (for example). For the same size, production takes a few weeks with mushrooms versus 3 years with an animal.
March 2021: Hermès unveiled its new Victoria bag, made of canvas, calf leather and Sylvania, a mycelium leather alter developed with the Fine Mycelium technology produced by MycoWorks!
NASA Albatross Dynamic Soaring Open Ocean Persistent Platform UAV Concept
This concept investigate the feasibility of a dynamic soaring (DS) UAV that will have an endurance on the order of months.
This capability is enabling for numerous civil missions from ocean and atmospheric science to fishery surveillance and monitoring. Many of these missions are simply not feasible do to the cost of operating a fueled aircraft with limited endurance.
An aircraft such as this could be built in the thousands. They would distribute themselves over the oceans of the planet providing a robust surveillance network that has persistence which is only limited by the reliability of the hardware. This aircraft is based on the Albatross which in habitats the southern oceans by Antarctica.
The typical Albatross weighs about 25 lbs. They have an aspect ratio 16 wing with an 11 foot span. They are estimated to have an L/D of 27. Since there are few static soaring opportunities over the ocean, the Albatross uses a technique called Dynamic Soaring (DS) to maintain flight. Dynamic soaring is a figure eight-like flight maneuver that takes advantage of horizontal wind gradients to maintain flight speed and altitude.
The albatross can travel over 1000 km per day without ever flapping their wings through the constant use of such maneuvers, while able to tack any direction with independence of wind direction The Albatross is also able to lock their shoulder joint to rest their muscles and even capable of sleeping while performing the DS flight maneuvers.
This UAV Concept has the same weight and size of the Albatross and would be propelled by the wind alone utilizing this same DS technique. Tip turbines on the wing tips extract power from the tip vortex to power the payload and recharge the batteries. When the wind dies the aircraft has the ability to safely land on the surface of the ocean. Solar cells will be used to keep the payload and other electronics running. The tip turbines can also be used as propellers to provide takeoff thrust and at other times to provide auxiliary propulsion to allow the aircraft to maneuver away from an obstacle.
Dynamic Soaring: How the Wandering Albatross Can Fly for Free
Wireless steerable vision for live insects and insect-scale robots
Vision serves as an essential sensory input for insects but consumes substantial energy resources. The cost to support sensitive photoreceptors has led many insects to develop high visual acuity in only small retinal regions and evolve to move their visual systems independent of their bodies through head motion.
By understanding the trade-offs made by insect vision systems in nature, we can design better vision systems for insect-scale robotics in a way that balances energy, computation, and mass. Here, we report a fully wireless, power-autonomous, mechanically steerable vision system that imitates head motion in a form factor small enough to mount on the back of a live beetle or a similarly sized terrestrial robot.
Our electronics and actuator weigh 248 milligrams and can steer the camera over 60° based on commands from a smartphone. The camera streams "first person" 160 pixels-by-120 pixels monochrome video at 1 to 5 frames per second (fps) to a Bluetooth radio from up to 120 meters away.
We mounted this vision system on two species of freely walking live beetles, demonstrating that triggering image capture using an onboard accelerometer achieves operational times of up to 6 hours with a 10-milliamp hour battery.
We also built a small, terrestrial robot (1.6 centimeters by 2 centimeters) that can move at up to 3.5 centimeters per second, support vision, and operate for 63 to 260 minutes.
Our results demonstrate that steerable vision can enable object tracking and wide-angle views for 26 to 84 times lower energy than moving the whole robot.
I am a final year PhD. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Washington where I work in the Network and Mobile Systems Lab with Shyam Gollakota. I also work closely with Sawyer Fuller who runs the Autonomous Insect Robotics Lab. My research focuses on wireless technologies such as communication, power and localization for a variety of resource constrained platforms including low power sensors and insect scale robots. Recently I have been focused on developing bio-integrative systems such as cameras and sensors small enough to ride on the back of live insects like bumblebees and beetles. I am also a part of the Urban Innovation Initiative at Microsoft Research working on Project Eclipsea low-cost cloud connected air quality monitoring platform for cities.
Before coming to UW I did my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley where I worked on a chip scale flow cytometer with Bernhard Boser.
I will be applying for faculty positions this year. I expect to graduate in spring 2021.