TU Delft researcher Bob Hendrikx is the creator of the Living Cocoon, a coffin constructed of mycelium which speeds up the body’s decomposition and betters the surrounding soil.
The Living Cocoon actively contributes to the composting process happening after death and also removes the toxins from the earth and creates richer soil for new plants.
The boxy coffin takes a week to grow and then, with the dead body inside, it takes somewhere around 2 to 3 years to entirely decompose.
On the other hand, conventional coffins used for burials of bodies take more than 10 years to dissolve in the ground.
The Living Coffin-Repairing Damage Done on Earth by Humans
Hendrikx who works as a researcher at the Delft University of Technology hopes that the living coffin will help make a closed-loop system for disposal of the dead and fixing some of the damage we have done on planet earth.
He says how we currently live in the graveyard of nature and we have a parasitic behavior and a short-sighted one. We degrade organisms in dead and polluting materials, but what if we keep them alive?
Thanks to the Living Cocoon, people can become one with nature again and become the thing that enriches it, rather than pollute it.
What Is Mycelium & Why Did Hendrikx Use It?
Hendrikx describes mycelium as the recycler of nature and this is the thread-like part of a fungus which grows underground.
Its function is to nourish the fungus through release of enzymes and dissolve biological polymers, boost the decomposition, and release CO2 into the atmosphere.
He explains how mycelium is on the lookout for waste to transform into nutrients for the good of the environment. It can do the same with toxins and metal, plastic, and oil.
Mycelium was also used in Chernobyl and it’s used in Rotterdam as a soil cleaner. Some farmers regularly apply it onto the land to improve its health.
How Did He Come Up with the Idea?
Hendrikx explains he came up with the idea to use the fungus for a coffin at the Dutch Design Week last year where he presented his living home-inhabitable pods from mycelium.
One girl walked up to him and asked him what if her grandma dies, can she leave her there.
This is when he realized the importance of mycelium for humans-how it can bring us back into the cycle of life and make us useful for the plants.
To make the coffins, they mix the type of mycelium they need with an organic substrate in a mold.
The mycelium eats the substrate and forms a 3D structure which grows and fills the shape of the mold it’s placed into.
This process is entirely passive- it doesn’t need any heat, energy or light.