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Green Island, NY, United States

Grant
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 295.58K | Year: 2014

Plastics and petroleum-based foams are a conventional solution for the material needs of many industries. Today these non-biodegradable, fossil fuel derived products compose 13 percent of all municipal solid waste streams, as opposed to 1 percent in 1960. This waste stream is associated with a number of environmental concerns, including greenhouse gas generation from incineration, as well as land and water contamination through land filling. In addition, this waste stream has human health implications, as studies have shown bioaccumulation of toxins in the body. The constituents of these toxins are primarily used to produce plastics, and their accumulation results in negative effects on health and reproduction. Finally, the market costs for plastics are subject to the increasingly limited and expensive petroleum supply.Under the Phase I initiative, Ecovative developed a new material manufacturing process that harnesses fungi?s tendency to fill a void space with a homogenous mycological biopolymer. This research resulted in a 100 percent bio-based and home compostable material that is completely composed of fungal mycelium (the vegetative tissue of a fungus) and has elastomeric properties similar to the commonly used foam ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The proposed Phase II initiative seeks to continue scaled development of this cost-competitive process for producing a high-performance replacement for expanded plastics, which will allow for commercialization of the product. This research will be focused around cost reduction, scaled manufacturing and pilot production of the mycological polymer. Ecovative, an award-winning sustainable materials company, will leverage its expertise and current intellectual property in mycelium-based materials during this undertaking. Ecovative has scaled previous technologyand proven the economics of the mushroom material business by commercializing the MycoFoamTM platform in the protective packaging industry through a licensing partnership. The proposed mycological material to be scaled in the Phase II initiative is poised to replace EVA and expanded foams not addressable via the MycoFoamTM platform technology, as it exists today. There is industry demand for alternatives to EVA as shoe midsoles and baby play mats, as shown by letters of support. These applications will serve as a point of entry into commercial implementation of this new material while leveraging Ecovative?s pilot facility for scaled production of the mycological biopolymer. The outcome of this research will be a novel bio-product, as well as a commercial platform for the proposed bio-product to transform material production, use and disposal in numerous high-volume industries that wouldotherwise consume significant amounts of plastic.


Grant
Agency: Department of Agriculture | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2014

Ecovative & #39;s vision is to grow sustainable products that directly replace the toxic plastics that poison our planet. The use and handling of phenol-formaldehyde foams and resins in the floricultural industry have documented environmental health and safety concerns. Although the physical performance of phenol formaldehyde foams is adequate for floricultural arrangements, there are significant legislative drivers for safer commercial materials to mitigate the emission of volatile organic compounds. Ecovative & #39;s adaptive technology uses regional agricultural byproducts to develop better approaches which focus on climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (VOC, phenols, formaldehyde, and alkane agents) by uniting agricultural material supply with customer facing horticultural products.Current Ecovative materials offer analogous physical characteristics in comparison to plastic foams, however floral foams require the additional feature of hygroscopy, enabling them to attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding environment.Further progress in meeting material metrics is presented in this proposal for development and large scale manufacture of the fungal post-growth treatment for water absorption, optimization of substrates to enhance floral stem penetrability, and physical support. Successful implementation of the proposed work plan offers a path towards the displacement of traditional floral foams.Achieving the technical objectives in this proposal will improve performance ofEcovative & #39;s absorbent biocomposite, comparable to traditional foams, including: fracture, density, porosity, water retention, and microbial resistance. The proposed research offersan alternative, renewable product that displaces unsustainable traditional foams, but does so at a comparable cost and with a reduced environmental footprint. The Phase I includesEcovative materials grown in-house and tested according to the collaborating industry leader, soliciting product feedback from the collaborating industry leader, and complying with ASTM standards and methods to reach the mechanical and biological requirements and market expectations.Completion of this project plan provides technical feasibility and validation towards four critical milestones required to penetrate the Floral Foam material market: (1) meeting the mechanical (water uptake, strength: weight, stem hold capability) and cost metrics under the Phase I work plan; (2) reaching floral life and antimicrobial metrics set by customer expectations; (3) scaling the functionalization process economically under a Phase II work plan; and (4) demonstrating feasibility in a potential customer & #39;s application (a current manufacturer, and a nationwide floral arrangement distributor). Realization of these milestones provides the foundation for the implementation of a Phase II effort. Ecovative anticipates using Phase I data to develop a Phase II scale-up procedure for collaboration with a floral foam manufacturer & #39;s network of OH and NY florists, and a current nationwide floral arrangement distributor to begin pilot production of Ecovative floral foams. These partnerships will establish a route to deliver the aforementioned environmental, health, and economic benefits throughout the U.S. floral market.This adaptation of Ecovative & #39;s low-energy biotechnology gives American agriculture a value-add product from domestic waste streams, it reduces their dependence on foreign oil, and provides the industry with a biotechnology product for export, continuing to deliver positive trade balance in the US economy. The lignocellulosic waste from American agriculture is used as the main constituent in this floral foam product, enabling agricultural producers and natural resource managers the opportunity to produce a biotechnological product within their own communities as per Ecovative & #39;s commercialization principles.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 149.30K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project seeks to address the steadily growing but unsustainable polymer matrix composite (PMC) market. PMCs are leveraged for their high strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios as compared to conventional engineering materials, but are notoriously unsustainable, energy-intensive to manufacture, and non-recyclable. Researchers have investigated encapsulating natural fibers with both petroleum-based polymers and biopolymers (e.g. cellulosic plastic) to produce more biocompatible composites with varying degrees of experimental and commercial success, but all attempts have still fallen short of an ideal bio-composite. In this project, we will create and characterize an entirely new bio-composite material. The basic idea is to use mycelium as a matrix for binding natural fibers and core filler materials together in sustainable composite parts. First, the core bulk material is bound together over time by mycelium growing into and around common bulk agricultural waste such as cotton hulls. Then, reinforcing layers made from natural fibers (e.g., hemp) inoculated with fungal cells are applied to the core faces, allowed to infiltrate the laminate and bind to the core material, and then heated to inactivate the growth process to make a resilient composite sandwich structure.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project encompasses the development of mycelium composite materials that are customizable for a broad range of markets including, but not limited to, automotive, transportation, architectural, biomedical, sports, and recreation. These materials are truly sustainable since both the laminates and cores consist of renewable materials. These composites will also require significantly less energy to make than other biocompatible composites because the material is grown instead of synthesized, and the material is completely compostable at the end of life. The outcome of the proposed research and development will be a basic understanding of how to manufacture the composites, the range of material properties obtainable, and how to adjust material properties for particular markets. Through this project, we will partner with researchers and students at two local universities with known expertise in composites manufacturing and testing. If successful with mycelium composites, these materials will find applications in a very high-margin market (i.e. composites) that is sorely needing more sustainable innovations.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 149.90K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop an innovative, environmentally benign process for forming net shape products of superior quality and performance from dissimilar biomaterial components. Plastics and foams are dependent upon inherently unsustainable raw materials, require a high embodied energy to produce, and do not readily biodegrade at the end of their useful lives. This project will focus on the further development of an alternative material system: a self-assembling biocomposite which is literally grown in the dark using fungal tissue to bind heterogeneous particles of agricultural waste. The biodegradable material exhibits mechanical properties that rival synthetic foams and offers the potential to transform the multi-billion dollar protective packaging and structural cores industries. However, the thin-walled plastic forms used to shape resulting products during growth have a limited service life and must be replaced frequently. Removing or reducing dependence on these forms, through development of a gelatinizing growth substrate and process, will increase sustainability and yield, and reduce costs to further incentivize widespread adoption. The proposed research will answer questions that will determine whether this gel-assisted casting process is technically and commercially feasible, and therefore laying the groundwork for a Phase II project. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is difficult to overstate. Conventional methods of producing low-cost, high strength-to-weight ratio materials for protective packaging and building construction use up to 10% of the world's petroleum as feedstock and consume considerable energy in the production process. Mycological material technology eliminates the need for fossil fuel feedstock and currently requires only one-eighth of the energy to produce an equivalent volume as compared to synthetic foam. In addition, the products are non-toxic, fire-retardant, and readily biodegradable. The commercial potential is high, as products made of this material, as currently manufactured, already successfully compete in the marketplace with products made of expanded polystyrene and expanded polypropylene. The benefits to society at large include safer materials, the transition to regional manufacturing which will bolster local economies, the use of domestic byproducts as the primary raw material, lower energy consumption, and a production method which creates less waste and pollution. The successful completion of this project will help United States manufacturers to emerge as world leaders in the production and supply of sustainable materials, with the potential to serve numerous global markets.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 149.90K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop an innovative, environmentally benign process for forming net shape products of superior quality and performance from dissimilar biomaterial components. Plastics and foams are dependent upon inherently unsustainable raw materials, require a high embodied energy to produce, and do not readily biodegrade at the end of their useful lives. This project will focus on the further development of an alternative material system: a self-assembling biocomposite which is literally grown in the dark using fungal tissue to bind heterogeneous particles of agricultural waste. The biodegradable material exhibits mechanical properties that rival synthetic foams and offers the potential to transform the multi-billion dollar protective packaging and structural cores industries. However, the thin-walled plastic forms used to shape resulting products during growth have a limited service life and must be replaced frequently. Removing or reducing dependence on these forms, through development of a gelatinizing growth substrate and process, will increase sustainability and yield, and reduce costs to further incentivize widespread adoption. The proposed research will answer questions that will determine whether this gel-assisted casting process is technically and commercially feasible, and therefore laying the groundwork for a Phase II project.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is difficult to overstate. Conventional methods of producing low-cost, high strength-to-weight ratio materials for protective packaging and building construction use up to 10% of the worlds petroleum as feedstock and consume considerable energy in the production process. Mycological material technology eliminates the need for fossil fuel feedstock and currently requires only one-eighth of the energy to produce an equivalent volume as compared to synthetic foam. In addition, the products are non-toxic, fire-retardant, and readily biodegradable. The commercial potential is high, as products made of this material, as currently manufactured, already successfully compete in the marketplace with products made of expanded polystyrene and expanded polypropylene. The benefits to society at large include safer materials, the transition to regional manufacturing which will bolster local economies, the use of domestic byproducts as the primary raw material, lower energy consumption, and a production method which creates less waste and pollution. The successful completion of this project will help United States manufacturers to emerge as world leaders in the production and supply of sustainable materials, with the potential to serve numerous global markets.

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