Are 3D printers the future of food for 12 billion people?

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Captain Picard Tea

There are food shortages around the world. People die from hunger in all countries and regions. Keeping the seven billion residence of the world fed has been a problem since the dawn of humanity.

What will happen when there are 12 billion mouths to feed? According to Anjan Contractor, the human population will not be sustainable once we reach “peak” population, which is one reason why NASA is granting him the money to explore using 3D printers as a way to produce food and minimize waste?

It doesn’t sound appetizing, but it may be necessary according to Contractor, who received a 6-month, $125,000 grant to create a prototype for his universal food synthesizer. It won’t be as nifty as the replicator that Captain Picard used to get his Earl Grey tea in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but with people starving, does it really matter?

A combination of powders and oils will the the basic building blocks for the 3D printed food. This will allow for long-term storage and nearly no waste through processing of food products that can have a shelf life of decades. It isn’t just to combat hunger and increased population. Food sources like these will be required if we ever attempt deep space exploration.

Here’s the video that Contractor gave NASA as a proof of concept for his project. It’s chocolate on a cracker – not exactly a meal – but it’s the start of something that may be in kitchens across the world a decade or two from now.

 

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