Green plastics are a growing part of the car market, and Mielewski says it may be possible to actually grow car parts.
She says scientists at Ford are experimenting by mixing some mushroom roots together with other plant matter, like wheat straw, and putting the mixture into a mold shaped like a car part.
They close the mold, and the mushroom roots grow because they're feeding on the plant matter.
After about a week, it's filled the mold, they take it out, and it's in the shape of a car part.
Just cover it with a little bioplastic and it's ready to go.
The mushroom car parts are a ways off from being introduced into cars, but Pogue believes they will not only change how parts are manufactured, but also style as well.
"When you make hard plastics out of plants, they tend to resemble nature," he said. "The mushroom parts have flecks of mushroom in them -- you can see the bits. It's like wood grain. No piece looks the same." But if the car parts of the future are rooted in mushroom roots, the future of fuel may be riding on chicken feathers.
Pogue says Delaware-based scientist Richard Wool has discovered that when feathers are cooked at just the right temperature, they can turn into high-tech hydrogen storage devices.
Although hydrogen is considered a zero-emission fuel, using it to power cars is difficult because it's a gas that likes to be free.
"It likes to occupy a lot of space," Wool told Pogue. "To compress it into a small space like the size of your gas tank -- you know, 20 gallons -- requires enormous pressure."
That's why many hydrogen-powered vehicles have tanks that are almost twice the size of the car.
However, chicken feathers act like sponges to draw the hydrogen gas closer, and that drops the pressure in the tank. That means if the carbonized black chicken fiber is stuffed into an engine, enough hydrogen could fit into a normal-sized gas tank to allow a 300-mile car trip.
via Mushroom Roots, Chicken Feathers Could Be Key to Making Cars More Sustainable.