Could mushrooms keep your house warm?

Philippe Amstislavski
Philippe Amstislavski in the lab. (Photo by Philip Hall, Green & Gold News, used with permission)

One Alaska scientist thinks so.

Philippe Amstislavski has been working in the lab for several years to test how mycilium—the nutrient-gathering underground network that produces mushrooms, the above-ground “fruit” we see—can become an insulating material for buildings, pipes and roads.

Under magnification, these organic root-like networks reveal a porous structure that is lightweight and filled with air—great qualities for insulating material.

Philippe and his lab crew have been cooking up different recipes by feeding white-rot mycilium (commonly found on trees in the woods

Test cylinder of "insulation"
A test cylinder of mycelium insulation. (Photo by Philip Hall, Green & Gold News, used with permission)

and neighborhoods of Anchorage) different nutrients. Mycelium love cellulose from the walls of plant cells and vegetable fibers. So he feeds test batches of wood chips, bran and all kind of organic detritus. Well-fed, the mycilium grow fast. In seven days they can fill test cylinders with their lightweight, air-filled shape. In fact,

mushroom-shaped thermos
Summer ANSEP students working with the biofoam insulation grew a thermos shaped just like the Super Mario 1-Up Mushroom. (Photo courtesy of Philippe Amstislavski)

they can fill any shape you put them in. Students have grown lamp shades and boot insulators.

So more on this on the next Hometown Alaska, when we meet Philippe, an associate professor of public health at the University of Alaska Anchorage and a research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. How he got to Alaska from the polar Urals is a story itself.

Join us? Bring your questions and curiosity about the natural world in your own backyard.



HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Philippe Amstislavski, scientist and researcher


  • Philippe Amstislavski, resume
  • Growing insulation from fungus, ADN, 9/28/2016
  • Researcher aims to use fungus to insulate Alaska homes, KTUU
  • High Time: Mushrooms could replace insulation, Barron’s
  • Anchorage professor bets on bio-insulation from mushrooms, APM
  • ‘The Hidden Life of Trees,’ new book, reviewed by


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LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Alaska time)

REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. (Alaska time)

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