Tags: nasa | research | food | printer

NASA Funds Research for 3D Food Printer

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 05:49 PM

By Greg Richter

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As the world's population reaches peak sustainability by the end of the century people might have to look other places for their food sources.

NASA has awarded a $125,000 grant to build a prototype of a 3D food printer, much like the 3D printers currently used to make jet engine parts and fine art, the website Quartz reports.

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The printer would be fed with cartridges of powders and oils that would have a shelf life of decades, eliminating spoiled groceries in the fridge.

"I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can't supply 12 billion people sufficiently," said Anjan Contractor, whose company Systems & Materials Research Corporation was awarded the NASA grant. "So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food."

That might include bugs for protein. While many would wince at the prospect today, it might become a necessity in a century. Ground-up, powdered insects might be printed to look like steak, lobster, or hot dogs.

No word yet on taste.

Contractor already has built a printer that puts chocolate onto crackers. Dubbed a "pizza printer," it could presumably be expanded to print the layers of a pizza one at a time.

Contractor plans to leave the software portion of his invention open source, which would allow for virtual recipe sharing. If a "cook" came up with a tasty recipe, he or she could share the coding with a friend halfway around the world who could replicate the meal in his own kitchen.

The printer would also solve the problem of differing dietary needs within the same household.

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"If you’re male, female, someone is sick — they all have different dietary needs," Contractor said. "If you can program your needs into a 3D printer, it can print exactly the nutrients that person requires."

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