Final Report: Development of mushroom mycelium based biocomposites for fashion products

EPA Grant Number: SU839272
Title: Development of mushroom mycelium based biocomposites for fashion products
Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Cobb, Kelly Ann , Silverman, Jillian , Tang, Wing
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: October 23, 2017 through October 22, 2018 (Extended to August 31, 2019)
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety


The global apparel and footwear industries use a large quantity of depleting resources such as petrochemicals in production and generate non-biodegradable textiles and post-consumer products that are sent to landfills. The global trade of apparel and footwear also causes huge environmental impacts including water, land, and energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The University of Delaware is close to Kennett Square, PA, known as the Mushroom Capital of the World, where a variety of mushrooms are grown, and Delaware is a major chicken-producing state and generates a huge amount of chicken feather waste. The goal of this project is to use locally available, renewable materials including mushroom spawn, chicken feathers, and other agricultural waste, as well as post-consumer textile waste to develop mycelium biocomposites for fashion products. This research combines the sustainability strategies of local production and using bio-based renewable resources to solve environmental problems related to the apparel and footwear industries. The researchers accomplished four objectives in the project: (a) screening mushroom species and growing substrates (agricultural waste and textile waste) to identify appropriate starting materials for mycelium biocomposite development; (b) developing mycelium-based biocomposites, and testing mechanical properties of the biocomposite materials; (c) designing and developing fashion prototypes; (d) developing educational tools and demonstrating the composites and prototypes.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The researchers screened a variety of mushroom species including Agaricus bisporus (white button), Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster), Pleurotus citrinopileatus (yellow oyster), Pleurotus eryngii (king oyster), Lentinula edodes (shiitake), Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), and Hericium erinaceus (pom pom or lion’s mane), and substrate mixtures including agriculture waste, chicken feathers (whole feathers and shredded feathers), and textile fabrics (woven, knit, and nonwoven mat). Based on visual and tactile examinations, the researchers selected oyster, yellow oyster, king oyster, and reishi for further investigation. The researchers also found that the whole feathers are better than shredded feathers, and the nonwoven mat fabric (45% recycled jute, 40% recycled cotton, and 15% cornstarch) is better than woven or knit fabrics for mycelium composite development. The researchers decided to develop the mycelium biocomposite using a combination of sawdust mushroom spawn block mixture, flour, whole feathers, psyllium husk, water, and a nonwoven fabric mat.


The researchers designed a 4X2 experiment with two independent variables: mushroom species including reishi, oyster, king oyster, and yellow oyster, and nonwoven fabric mats for reinforcement (with and without fabric). The mycelium composite ingredients were mixed and put in beakers and placed in a 25°C environmental chamber to grow for one week. The materials were then heated at 90°C to deactivate the spores, and cylindrical mycelium composites were developed. The mycelium growth and interactions between mycelium and substrates were observed using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). SEM images exhibit that mycelium grew in the composite to form a fibrous matrix structure, and the mycelium interweaves with chicken feathers and textile fibers to bond the composite components together. After mycelium growth, the loose materials in the original mixture turned into a cross-connected and sturdy composite.

The researchers measured density and compressive strength at 10% deformation (in accordance with the ASTM D1621 standard). It was found that the compressive strength of the composite is higher than foot pressure of adults while walking.

The researchers developed a shoe-shaped mold in which the mycelium biocomposite was grown to develop shoe soles. The researchers developed a pair of shoes (sandals) using the mycelium biocomposite shoe soles, vegetable tanned leather, and natural dyed muslin cotton fabric. All of the materials in the shoes were developed from renewable resources and are biodegradable.


Mushroom mycelium composites were developed in this study. The compressive strength of the mycelium biocomposite, particularly the king oyster species, provided support for utilizing the material for shoe sole applications. A prototype pair of shoes were developed using the mycelium biocomposite and other renewable, biodegradable materials.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

green chemistry, innovative technology, renewable, waste reduction, waste minimization, mycology

Relevant Websites:

Feature on Daily Planet Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2018 Progress Report