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Tea, Earl Grey, hot! NASA blows $125k on Star Trek 3D FOOD PRINTER

We all know it'll really be 'Press Control-P for pizza'

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A small company in Austin, Texas, has received a $US125,000 grant from NASA to develop 3D printed food for astronauts.

The challenges are multifold – not least among them producing something palatable out of a printer – but the idea is that with enough development, NASA might be able to come up with something that beats the current rations sent to places like the International Space Station.

Systems & Materials Research Coroporation in Austin Texas has already beaten an easy problem – printing chocolate on a biscuit – but its plan under the NASA grant is more ambitious: a fully-fledged nosh synthesiser, perhaps like the food'n'drink replicators used by Star Trek's Captain Picard and his crew.

The prototype will use a combination of 3D printing and inkjet printing. The inkjet will handle “micronutrients, flavour and smell” while 3D printing will be used for macronutrients (the starch that forms the base of the pizza, along with protein and fat).

Why bother? – because if it worked and didn't send astronauts out of the airlock rather than eat the printed pizza, a working setup would mean that a handful of generic ingredients could be carried on manned spacecraft, rather than completed meals.

SMRC is working with the food science program at North Carolina State University and International Flavors and Fragrances on the project. The proposal's abstract is here. ®

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