We can make food out of thin air

SolarFoods: Magic Into Reality

When I was a kid we often played the “which superpower could you have if you could have a superpower?” icebreaker game in class.

And every single time, without fail, someone would wish they could make objects appear out of thin air: food, their hairbrush, a toy — anything and everything.

A super-power that was once imaginary is now science: SolarFoods is a revolutionary company turning electricity and air into food. They’re creating protein (without the animal) to meet demands of plant-based options (such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods), or provide the right amino acids to future lab-grown meat products.

Solein: The Magic Powder of Science

Solein is a single-cell protein that is produced by SolarFoods via a bioprocess of electricity, CO2, water, and a proprietary organism (which is a bacteria that eats CO2, and hydrogen bubbles produced by water electrolysis). It’s fermentation process is similar to yeast’s. Through this process, the researchers remove the liquid from the modified reactors, which dries and produces what they refer to as “the purest and most sustainable protein in the world.”

In this dried powdered form, Solein contains 50% protein (with all essential amino acids), 5–10% fat, 20–25% carbohydrates, and Vitamin B. The even more magical part of this process is not just that it exists, it’s its efficiency: traditionally 15,000L of water is used to produce 1kg of beef, and 2,500L of water is used to produce 1kg of soy. But for Solein, only 10L of water is needed to produce 1kg of protein. Currently, they can create 1kg of protein per day.

Are they Carbon-Negative?

No, not yet — it takes electricity to run the reactors that make this whole process happen. Currently, they do use renewable energy as their source of electricity, but their net impact is not yet carbon negative.

Like all technologies, their production process’ will get cheaper, more efficient, and less energy intensive in a few years. They are definitely on a trajectory of being carbon negative.

Technically, how does this really happen?

  1. CO2 & water are captured from the air
  2. CO2 is separated from the air using solid materials
  3. Using heat and a vacuum, liquid water and pure carbon dioxide are produced
  4. Hydrogen from the liquid water is produced via electrolysis
53s YouTube video explaining how to produce hydrogen via electrolysis

5. The CO2 and Hydrogen (acting as nutrients) are transferred to a bioreactor, along with essential minerals (ammonia, magnesium, calcium, sulfates and phosphates)
6. There are microbes in this bioreactor that use hydrogen as energy, and the carbon dioxide as carbon source.
7. The liquid in the bioreactor is heated at 140ºC in a drum, turning the liquid into protein powder.

What’s their pathway to changing the world?

✅ Getting regulatory approval for human consumption.

📈 Scaling their production of Solein so that it can be used in market as an alternative protein.

🚀 Working with the European Space Agency to develop off-planet foods. In one of his interview, their CEO mentioned making food for Mars.

Projected roadmap from the SolarFoods website

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27 replies on “We can make food out of thin air”

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