Making food with 3D printers is not a new concept, but it is still largely in the realm of science fiction. NASA wants to make science fiction into reality sooner than later, however, and it's throwing plenty of money towards those at the cutting edge of the technology.
Quartz reports that NASA has awarded Systems & Materials Research Corporation a $125,000 grant to continue work on what company head, Anjan Contractor, calls a universal food synthesizer. As currently envisioned, the technology would use cartridges of powders and oils to create complex foods one layer at a time.
NASA is understandably interested in the technology as it would provide plenty of inexpensive food to space travelers. The current goal is to have the food cartridges last up to 30 years. It would ensure that any long distance space travel plans to Mars and beyond wouldn't suffer from food spoilage.
Of course, space travel isn't the only thing that this particular 3D printer would make easier. Feeding the world's population would be a cinch if everybody owned a 3D printer and a number of inexpensive food cartridges that only doled out what a person needs so no food is wasted. It seems impossible with our current food production methods, but Contractor's plans could very well end world hunger.
The first step in space travel and ending world hunger may just lie in the humble pizza. America's favorite food seems to be perfectly suited to the 3D printing process as one layer of food is added at a time. In the case of pizza, the dough would be extruded onto a heated plate that bakes the dough as its being printed. Afterwards, a tomato powder would be added while being mixed with water and oil to create the sauce. Finally, a "protein layer" made up of plants or animals would be added to the top.
A 3D pizza printer may sound like some kind of revolutionary new concept, but NASA has been playing around with 3D printers for quite some time. The agency is even looking into whether or not it could deploy 3D printers to the surface of the moon to build 3D printed structures out of lunar soil.