2013-09-11

Co.Labs

You Can Now Print Any Food You Want, As Long As It’s Algae

In nutritionally scarce areas, the answer to proper health might lie in pond scum. A PhD candidate is tinkering with a microalgae printer to bring "food farms" into your home using modified 3-D printers.



Tomorrow’s superfoods could be printed in your own home, so long as you don’t mind grubbing on algae. PhD researcher Marin Sawa is experimenting with her Algaerium Bioprinter, a microalgae farm that selects from various algae “inks” to print out nutrient-rich meals. You’re thinking it. We’re thinking it. YUM.

More appetizing details: The algae is dispensed via inkjet-like printing, which Sawa has developed in partnership with Imperial College London. The Algaerium Bioprinter is an attempt to create a domestic “food farm” where particular algae combinations can be printed according to nutritional needs as part of a greater urban agricultural effort to fight food desert conditions. So while the fare itself might not sound appetizing, the amount of resources it could save sure do.

The microalgae in question--Chlorella, Spirulina, and Haematococcus--are a suite of “superfoods” rich in vitamins and minerals, resulting in some (like Chlorella) being industrially produced to satisfy demand for global foodstuffs. The Bioprinter can pump out vibrant combinations of the microalgae, and some of their colors can indicate nutrition features: Chlorella’s green pigment, for example, comes from its high concentration of chlorophylls.

The Algaerium Bioprinter, deriving from Sawa’s earlier research in aesthetic application and functionality of algae, is part of her doctoral research at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Her next step is to explore printed algae-based energy devices and filters.

[Image: Flickr user Roland Tanglao]


Article Tags: 3-D printingfood