Now researchers in the Scandinavian country have revealed their next trick for improving quality of life: they’re creating food out of electricity.
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This month, Finnish researchers created a protein that’s literally zapped into being through an electric shock, Quartz reports.
The protein’s only ingredients? Electricity, water, carbon dioxide, and microbes, according to Business Insider.
Through a process called electrolysis, carbon dioxide is captured and mixed together in a bioreactor with hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria, then pasteurized and dried.
The protein “can be produced anywhere renewable energy, such as solar energy, is available,” according to a press release by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, one of two bodies involved in the joint study.
The results of this study could have major implications for feeding large quantities people in a world where food sources continue to be threatened by climate change and human-made conflict.
Currently, an estimated 20 million people are facing famine in four North African and Middle Eastern countries — South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.
Researchers involved in the study explained the impact their protein could have on these hard-to-reach populations.
“In practice, all the raw materials are available from the air,” VTT scientist Juha-Pekka Pitkänen said. “In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine.”
The practice of creating protein through renewable electricity is not, however, close to being available on a wide-scale.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock? Time. According to The Independent, it takes about two weeks to produce one gram of protein, using a coffee-cup sized reactor.
As for now, researchers hope to first continue to develop the concept, and then move toward commercialization.
“The idea is to develop the concept into a mass product, with a price that drops as the technology becomes more common,” Professor Jero Ahola, at Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), said.