It might sound like something out of a Star Wars film, but a Texas company has teamed up with NASA to develop a 3-D food printer for astronauts to create custom meals in space.
Systems and Materials Research of Austin is hoping to design, build and test a food printer that can work in space and can create nutritionally pleasing and tasty synthetic food. Powdered proteins, starches, fats and flavors are added to water or oil during the process.
"The initial plan is to work with NASA and the astronauts, and then as things become commercially viable, we will definitely consider weight loss and weight gain [applications]," David Irvin, the company's research director and lead chemist, told Reuters several months ago.
In the U.K., Choc Edge sells a chocolate-printing machine for £2,888 ($4,373). U.S. start-up Modern Meadow is working on making artificial meat with a 3-D bioprinter, saying on its website that it develops cultured leather and meat products that require no animal slaughter and much lower inputs of land, water, energy and chemicals.
Vicari at Lux Research believes that printed food could certainly make sense in space. Asked about Modern Meadow, he said that by current calculations it could be $66 for a kilo of meat, which is not sustainable.
"To my knowledge, no one has actually tasted it yet, either," he said.