NASA Looks To 3D-Printed Pizza And Other Foods For Long Distance Space Travel

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online
According to a report by Quartz, NASA is dishing out $125,000 in grant money to help Anjan Contractor develop a 3D food printer.
Contractor received the six month grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer. The mechanical engineer plans to build a 3D printer capable of providing nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time from cartridges of powder and oils.
The powder the system uses has a shelf-life of 30 years and contains either sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building blocks for nutrition. He hopes his idea could be a solution to the growing population on Earth not having a sufficient amount of food.
“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can´t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” Contractor told Quartz. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
Pizza is one of the foods Contractor believes he can print off because it can be printed in distinct layers, requiring the print head to extrude one substance at a time. First, the printer will begin laying down a layer of dough that is baked at the same time it is being printed through a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. After this step, it will lay down a tomato base, and finally the “protein layer” will be applied.
According to Quartz, Contractor’s printer is still at the conceptual stage, but he plans to begin building it within the next two weeks.
“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” Contractor told Quartz. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”
He and his team are initially focusing on applications for long-distance space travel, but his eventual goal is to turn the system into a design that can be licensed to someone who wants to turn it into a business.
“One of the major advantage of a 3D printer is that it provides personalized nutrition,” Contractor told Quartz. “If you´re male, female, someone is sick–they all have different dietary needs. If you can program your needs into a 3D printer, it can print exactly the nutrients that person requires.”
Printing food is a creative concept for the future of 3D printing, but it is not necessarily the weirdest. Researchers from Oxford University are developing a printer that can create materials with several of the properties of living tissues. Their design could become a new technology for delivering drugs to places where they are needed and potentially could replace damaged human tissues.