Team Stanford-Brown-RISD was based in the NASA Ames Research Center for the summer of 2018, and worked on developing habitats for Mars and the Moon through the use of fungal mycelium.
Transportation of material through space is a basic yet fundamental component of many of NASA’s goals and objectives. Whether this material is equipment needed to test for life on Mars or structures that allow for prolonged habitation, it must travel from earth to its planetary of lunar destination, thus incurring great economic and energetic costs. But what if it didn’t have to be transported from earth? What if it could be grown on planet? The Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM team proposed to explore the use of fungal mycelium, the vegetative structure of fungi, as a light-weight, durable material that could be grown on planet using spores to create habitats and other necessary items. The team focused on developing a design for a habitat from mycelium as a proof of concept, and using synthetic biology to enhance the filtration and adhesion capabilities of the mycelium. The team further explored the implications and uses of these biodegradable, self-growing structures made of fungi on Earth.
Our overall project can be broken down into four sub-projects. These are characterized as the following: Mycelium Material & Habitat Development, Mycelium Glue Project, Mycelium Filter Project, and finally the Mission Architecture that ties everything together. Major accomplishments included selecting and growing fungi on promising substrates, designing prototype habitats and growing actual structures such as a human-rated stool, the production of functional biological glues, a filter the effectively removed copper from solution, and an overall proposed mission architecture informed by our model, lab results and integrated human practices.