I was working late the other night and was getting really hungry. The snacks in the break room were all gone. The fridge was empty. I ended up running out for a burger and came back to meet my deadline. The burger was not especially satisfying, but it was fast. What I really wanted was a nice plate of lasagna with a green salad and some garlic bread. And a slice of chocolate mousse cake for dessert. “Where are those food replicators when you need them?” I wondered.
Almost 50 years after Star Trek brought us the first fictional food replicators, it looks like they could become a reality that helps feed the world. According to the CNET article, NASA funds attempt at 3D food printer for pizza, NASA’s provided a grant to Systems and Materials Research, a materials and technology firm, to come up with a 3D food printer. The goal here is to be able to provide food with a super-long shelf life, suitable for long-term space travel. The printer would use powdered nutrients to print out 3D meals. Anjan Contractor, an engineer with Systems and Materials Research, has already created a 3D printer that prints chocolate onto cookies. His next assignment is to print a 3D pizza.
In the Quartz article, The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food, Contractor says that the dried nutrient powders the printer uses for “ink” can last for up to 30 years, making them the perfect not only for feeding space travellers, but for feeding the 12 billion people on earth as well. Creating food in this way cuts waste, is sustainable (because it can come from sustainable nutrient sources, like algae), and uses open source hardware. Contractor bases the prototype 3D food printer on the second-generation RepRap 3D printer.
Algae lasagna could taste a lot like spinach lasagna, don't you think?