For those of you who watch Star Trek, you’ve seen the food replicators make a whole meal out of thin air.

Well, now that sci-fi fantasy just got a whole lot more real. With just Microbes, a bit of electricity, CO2, and water you’d get a powder which is 50% protein, 25% carbohydrates and 25% fats and nucleic acids. That powder can be used in shakes or as an additive to food or even something similar to tofu. The product was created at the Lappeenranta University of Technology. To make the powder, they combine CO2, H2O and Knallgas bacteria with ammonium, sulfate and phosphate salts, which act as fertilizers. The process is produced in a bioreactor.

Today, about 800 million people worldwide go hungry. A nutritious, high-protein alternative could help address global hunger. It may also help the planet overall reduce greenhouse gases. The powder can also be used in animal feed for livestock.

The process to obtain this powder does not require the vast amounts of land, water or other resources necessary for large-scale agriculture and does not emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If solar power is used to produce the electricity needed, then the process becomes ten times more efficient. It’s not so different than making beer. But then in beer, the raw ingredient is sugar as appose to hydrogen. The protein creation process starts with a hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria. The entire process took the scientist to produce 1 gram of protein took two weeks. But that’s only the beginning. They plan to scale up the process with a much larger reactor. Once successful they plan to take the product mainstream. The powder can be further refined to obtain pure protein.

Technology like this would be great in nonarable lands, such as places in the African continent. The work, the scientist, are doing is part of an ambitious project backed by the Finnish government to reduce carbon emission through innovation. Further afield they plan to produce a mini for the kitchen countertop protein reactor.

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