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3-D printers are certainly the buzz today - They are being put to all kinds of uses, ranging from creating faux cars for movies to architectural models and if some advocates have their way, possibly even lunar structures. However, none of these ideas are as radical as the one proposed by Anjan Contractor, who believes that they will be the key to eradicating world hunger.
If you think that sounds a little audacious, you are not the only one, but after hearing out the material scientist's logic, the idea begins to make sense at least, theoretically.
According to expert estimates, world population will skyrocket from the current 7 billion to between 10-12 billion by the turn of the century, stretching the earth's already tight resources, even further. This means that necessities like food will become extremely expensive and possibly, even out of reach, for billions of people.
This is where 3-D Printing may save the day. Anjan, a senior mechanical engineer at Austin-based Systems and Materials Research Corporation maintains that the only way to sustain a population this large will be to equip every kitchen with a 3D printer and print out individual meals one layer at a time from cartridges of powder and oils that will be available at neighborhood grocery stores. He believes that these customized meals assembled from blocks of proteins, carbohydrates, and sugars with a shelf life of over 30 years, would result in minimal food wastage.
More importantly, it would be easier to make the necessary food blocks from things that we currently do not consider edible - A great example of that is meat protein. Most experts believe that as the population grows, the supply is not going to be adequate to feed everyone. Anjan thinks that we could easily get the same protein from insects - and in its transformed state as a food cartridge, it would not be a turn off for anybody. Similarly, the vegetable block could be made from greens like de-hydrated grass or even algae! Though all this futuristic cardboard-like food may sound unappealing, the scientist believes that when faced with a severe food crisis, it will be very welcomed and even, sought out.
While this may sound a little far-fetched to most of us, Anjan who is working with Netherlands based TNO Research to create the food blocks seems to have convinced the scientists at NASA, who are looking for a solution to feed astronauts when they go really long missions, like the one being planned to Mars. Earlier this week, they awarded the engineer a $125,000 grant to start building the first real prototype.
So what food will the team print first? Pizza, of course! As Anjan envisions it, the printer will first print a layer of dough, which will be instantly baked by a heated plate situated at the bottom. Then comes an evenly spread layer of tomato sauce, also stored in powdered form and reconstituted with water and oil, atop which would go a mystery protein layer made from animal, plant or milk product!
Anjan is not the only one experimenting with 3-D printed food. A group led by Cornell University Associate Professor, Hod Lipson, has been experimenting with this concept since 2011 and has even succeeded in printing out cube shaped creations from powdered milk and cookies, with limited sugar!
Would you be willing to try a 3D printed food or would the idea of not really knowing what the actual ingredients are, gross you out a little? Be sure to let us know, by adding your comments below.
Resources: news.yahoo.com, qz.com