MycoCouture: MycoVelvet

How many  of us ever consider the role played by the humble fungus when we’re cutting through the skin-like rind of Camembert or indulging in the deep and pungent flavours of Stilton or Roquefort ? Not many of us I suspect, but without these microbes none of the cheeses above would exist. These are examples of mould ripened cheeses where the fungus plays are role in generating flavour (methyl ketones in the case of Stilton and Roquefort) and a white protective skin in the case of Camembert.

The Stilon Mould being cultured

The Stilon Mould being cultured

Close up of the surface

Close up of the surface

Surface close up

Surface close up

Close up of the surface showing its hydrophobic/water repelling properties. The water forms a bead and rolls off

Close up of the surface showing its hydrophobic/water repelling properties. The water forms a bead and rolls off

Close up of the surface

Close up of the surface

Close up of the surface

Close up of the surface

Culture of the Roquefort Mould

Culture of the Roquefort Mould

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The materials after harvest

The materials after harvest

The materials after harvest

The materials after harvest

The Camembert Mould being cultured

The Camembert Mould being cultured

 

Beyond the roles above, these moulds roles in generating the flavour of the  have other remarkable and often overlooked properties.  For example, in the case of Camembert the mould generates the rind, a highly complex living surface that protects the cheese, and defends it against microorganisms that would otherwise  spoil its nutritious and creamy interior.  These properties might one day form the basis of living,  smart, and functional materials, that would be both self-cleaning or sterilizing.

White MycoVelvet. A test demonstrating its stain repellant properties.  

Taking inspiration, from scientists at the Institute for Chemical and Bio-Engineering in Zurich, myself and artist Ninela Ivanova, isolated the moulds from Camembert, Stilton and Roquefort and simply cultured them on the surface of milk (skimmed UHT milk works best as its already sterile) to make these remarkable textiles which are essentially a living fungal biofilm. The materials have the appearance of velvet but are strongly hydrophobic, that is, they strongly repel water, which if applied to textile forms small beads and simply rolls off. A microbiological and sustainable version of  GortexTM, may be just around the corner ; – )

4 thoughts on “MycoCouture: MycoVelvet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s