London, Aug 2 (PTI) Scientists have successfully produced protein powder using electricity and carbon dioxide, an advance that may help combat food scarcity and hunger across the world.
The entire process requires only electricity, water, carbon dioxide, and microbes.
The method releases food production from restrictions related to the environment as the protein can be produced anywhere renewable energy, such as solar energy, is available, researchers said.
“In practise, all the raw materials are available from the air. In the future, the technology can be transported to, deserts and other areas facing famine,” said Juha-Pekka Pitkanen, Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
After exposing the raw materials to electrolysis in a bioreactor, the process forms a powder that consists of more than 50 per cent protein and 25 per cent carbohydrates – the texture can also be changed by altering the microbes used in the production, ‘Futurism’ reported.
The protein created can be used as a fodder replacement as well, thus releasing land areas for other purposes, such as forestry. The method allows food to be produced where it is needed, researchers said.
“In the long term, protein created with electricity is meant to be used in cooking and products as it is. The mixture is very nutritious, with more than 50 per cent protein and 25 per cent carbohydrates. The rest is fats and nucleic acids,” Pitkanen said.
“The consistency of the final product can be modified by changing the organisms used in the production,” Pitkanen added.
According to estimates by the researchers, the process of creating food from electricity can be nearly 10 times as energy-efficient as common photosynthesis, which is used for cultivation of soy and other products.
Currently, the production of one gramme of protein takes around two weeks, using laboratory equipment that is about the size of a coffee cup, researchers said.
The next step is to produce the material in quantities sufficient for development and testing of fodder and food products. This would also allow a commercialisation to be done, researchers said.