NASA has just awarded a $125,000 grant to Anjan Contractor to create a 3D printer that prints…food.
The printer, based on open-source hardware called RepRap, will use a kind of nutrient powder and oil to construct foods, which will be available in specially-designed cartridges.
And the first item on the menu? Pizza.
Work on the printer will actually start in a couple weeks, and they chose pizza because, well, it’s a fairly easy food to put together.
First, a layer of dough will be “printed” onto a heated plate, which will cook as the second layer — a tomato sauce made of the aforementioned nutrient powder, water, and oil — is applied on top. Then it’s the “protein layer,” which at this point could be made of anything, including algae, grass, or insects. I really don’t know.
Of course, I’m not sure how a 3D-printed pizza would actually taste, but the goal here isn’t necessarily to make something that tastes good. Rather, the goal is to supply much-needed nutrition over long periods of time. And, in case of NASA’s grant, while on a lengthy voyage to Mars.
Not only would this technology make long trips through space more viable — the nutrient powders for the machine could last up to 30 years — it would also serve to feed a growing population right here on Earth.
Now, me, I’m still waiting for my hydrator like the one in Back to the Future II. Wake me up when someone makes one of those.