The birth of a revolution
Bicycles are a sustainable alternative to cars. But the bicycles themselves are usually not produced very sustainably. That is why StudioMOM trains companies in the bicycle industry to adopt circular business practices via the CIRCO method. We ourselves designed sustainable alternatives, such as the LAVO hydrogen-powered transport bicycle. But apart from the bike itself, the accessories also have room for improvement. Like bicycle helmets... For safety reasons, you have to replace them every 3 years. This creates a waste stream of a hard-to-recycle, glued-together mixture of foam and plastic. Would it be possible to develop a helmet that is less harmful to our planet?
A bicycle helmet should properly protect your head, weigh little, ventilate well and fit perfectly on your head. With these requirements in mind, we looked for an alternative together with Politecnico di Milano. In MOM Lab we have been experimenting with bio-manufacturing based on mycelium and hemp flakes for some time now. Mycelium is the root network of a fungus that feeds on the flakes. Briefly heating this mixture stops the growth process, resulting in a material with properties similar to EPS, the harmful foam in conventional bicycle helmets.
- First, we made material samples in different compositions until we found the perfect composition.
- In the design of the bicycle helmet, we made use of the growing power and network structure of mycelium. The different layers in the design not only create extra cross connections in the material, they also make space for the necessary airflow for cooling the head.
- For the strap and outer shell of MyHelmet, we used hemp textile, a biodegradable material to which mycelium attaches itself. The woven structure of the textile also gives the helmet extra strength.
- We let the different parts grow together firmly. The strap is fixed during the growth process and connects to the other parts at the correct position.
- The production process with mycelium is very different from that with EPS. Therefore, we innovatively combined existing techniques to produce the helmet.
- The proof of concept works and can now be developed further.
Safe for your head, good for the environment. We turned a ‘normal’ bicycle helmet into a game changer. By developing a new process, we have taken a considerable step towards using mycelium bio-manufacturing on an industrial scale. With MyHelmet, the bicycle industry now has a means to stop the endless stream of harmful, systematic plastic and EPS waste. The mycelium-based technology fits in with the new circular reality we strive for: there are minimal CO2 emissions, it does not require any fossil raw materials and the end result is 100% biodegradable. But we are not there yet. Who's in?