The Material Incubator is a wet lab located in the St. Joost School of Art & Design in Den Bosch, The Netherlands.
The lab is located at the entrance to the building and surrounded by windows. Visitors can see whatever activities are taking place there, the science inside is approachable for everybody.
The Lab consist of two working spaces: a small room, the Mycelium Lab, and a big room, the BAD Lab. The space was formerly divided between the two main research departments that work in the lab, but the rooms are now increasingly used interchangeably.
The Material Incubator is sterile and equipped with the facilities required for working with micro-organisms:
- Biological safety cabinets with an integrated UV filter
- An air filtration system which creates a particle-free working environment
- Autoclaves of different sizes for sterilizing equipment at 121°C with pressurized saturated steam
- A climate chamber for growing samples under controlled environmental conditions
- A shaking incubator in which cultures in suspension can be held and agitated at a constant speed and temperature
- Standard incubators for growing and maintaining microbiological cultures
- A fume hood for limiting exposure to hazardous or toxic fumes, vapours and dust
The Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy (CoE BBE) and the Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design And Technology (Caradt) are the lead research departments at the MI lab. Students from the Master Institute of Visual Cultures can also attend the lab via elective modules. Students who work in the MI lab, who come from diverse educational backgrounds, undergo intensive microbiology and laboratory training prior to working there.
The name Material Incubator evokes the purpose of this lab space: an ideal environment in which to develop new materials that can positively impact our economy and society. One example of such a material is the mycelium bio composite. Mycelium is the interwoven network of thin threads, known as hyphae, from which mushrooms or fungi are built. These microscopic threads, whose purpose is to ensure that nutrients are absorbed from the environment, can fuse into a solid material. A mycelium-based material is a composite consisting of a natural filler (the substrate) which has been combined with mycelium. In our lab, researchers develop prototypes of mycelium bio composite, then test their material properties and the production processes.
One exceptional feature of the Material Incubator lab is that it is a place for knowledge exchange among scientists, designers and artists. Exchange arises at an interpersonal level, as researchers meet and discuss the different approaches or read-outs in the lab, and also in a more structured way, through the CoE BBE and Caradt project collaboration.