Does the answer to ending world hunger lie in 3D food printing technology? Material engineer Arjan Contractor seems to think so. The firm was awarded a six-month, $125,000 grant by NASA to create a food synthesizer that uses 3D printing technology. The food printer will print meals, layer by layer, from cartridges filled with sugars, carbohydrates, and protein in powder form.

NASA’s main concern is efficient food storage for long-haul space flights, but Contractor hopes that his new food technology will give more people on Earth access to the food they need. How? The nutrient cartridges can last up to 30 years, so they eliminate waste, particularly in quick-rotting environments like Africa, South America, and Asia. What’s more, the software can potentially produce nutritionally rich meals out of alternative materials like insects, algea, duckweed, grass, and whatever else those freakishly intelligent scientists can think of.

First up on the printed food menu: pizza, obviously. It makes sense, 1) because everyone loves pizza and printing a pizza is the stuff of dreams, and 2) because the system lends itself to layer-based foods like pizza pie. The printer will produce three layers: dough, a tomato base, and a protein layer. It’s just too bad “protein layer” doesn’t have the same drool-factor as milky mozzarella di bufala. Still, this is a huge step forward from the dial-up modems and grainy ink-jet photos of teenage heartthrobs that we grew up with.

[via Grub Street]