What comes to thoughts while you suppose of various proteins?  With the rising quantity of choices available on the market, you would possibly suppose of the soy-based Not possible Burger, tofu scrambled “eggs,” or the no-longer-so-far-fetched thought of consuming bugs or algae.  However what if there was such a factor as protein created from the air?

It could sound like a foolish magic trick, however in at the moment’s quickly evolving meals business, few issues appear not possible.  Startups, similar to Air Protein in Berkeley, California and Photo voltaic Meals primarily based in Finland, are demonstrating that it might be potential to cut back greenhouse gases and drastically decrease the environmental footprint of protein manufacturing by producing meals merely from atmospheric carbon dioxide, renewable electrical energy, and water.

Picture by Markus Distelrath from Pexels

How is This Doable?

 Producing edible materials out of CO2 is a bit more difficult than pulling a burger out of the sky, however it’s considerably comparable to meals fermentation, harnessing the ability of microbes as nature’s tiny meals producers.  This unconventional strategy, studied by researchers at Lappeenranta College of Know-how and VTT Technical Analysis Centre of Finland, depends on the work of hydrogenotrophs, microorganisms that convert carbon dioxide to methane utilizing power derived from hydrogen molecules (H2).  These microbes are strictly anaerobic, which means they will’t survive within the presence of oxygen, and are cultivated in vessels comparable to these used for fermenting meals like yogurt or beer.2  To supply gasoline for his or her metabolism, renewable power similar to photo voltaic, geothermal, wind, or hydroelectric energy is utilized to water.  This utility is used to carry out water electrolysis, the method of utilizing electrical energy to break aside water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen fuel.  The hydrogen fuel is then provided to the microbes, which oxidize it to generate power for development, whereas consuming CO2 captured from the ambiance.  As soon as they’ve proliferated, the microbes could be dehydrated and processed right into a flour-like product that’s wealthy in protein and carbohydrates.  In different circumstances, non-hydrogenotrophic microbes similar to some yeasts and algae will also be engineered and cultivated as sources of edible single-cell protein, producing completely different nutrient yields relying on their distinctive metabolic capacities.6

Picture by ELEVATE from Pexels

Advantages and Challenges of “Air-based” Protein

 What does this new kind of meals manufacturing convey to the desk?  As with different various proteins, the aim of this novel meals supply is to meet client demand for protein in a way more sustainable means.  It challenges not solely conventional meat manufacturing but additionally the plant-based market.  In accordance to the Middle for Investigative Reporting, producing a single quarter-pound, grain-fed beef burger consumes round 1,700 liters of water and leads to about Three kilograms of greenhouse fuel emissions.8  Different research present that the environmental value of meat manufacturing is disproportionate to its output; livestock farming occupies roughly 80 % of agricultural land, which contributes to important deforestation, however accounts for less than 18 % of energy consumed worldwide.1

The Good Food Institute experiences that plant-based meat substitutes, like soy burgers, require 47-99% much less land, launch 30-90% much less greenhouse fuel, and eat 72-99% much less water to produce in contrast to animal meat.4  Nevertheless, Photo voltaic Meals claims that producing one kilogram of its protein powder, named Solein, prices even fewer sources, consuming as a lot as 500 occasions much less water than beef manufacturing and 100 occasions much less water than plant manufacturing.3  The yield of product per hectare of land can be reportedly 10 occasions higher than that of crops,7 and the method takes solely weeks, as opposed to the a number of months which can be spent between planting and harvesting crops.5  Moreover, hydrogenotrophic organisms are plentiful in nature and due to this fact simply acquired to be used.  Since all the pieces takes place in an enclosed tank unaffected by environmental situations like climate or soil high quality, the protein-yielding microbes could be cultivated virtually anyplace at any time.  This offers a possible meals supply in deserts and different areas of the world the place agriculture is just not properly supported.

So CO2-based protein is outwardly more healthy for the setting, however how about for our our bodies?  In phrases of dietary worth, Air Protein claims that its protein powder incorporates roughly 80 % protein, in contrast to the roughly 40 % protein content material of soy protein flour.2  Photo voltaic Meals’ Solein consists of up to 65% protein and round 25% carbohydrates, with the rest composed of fat and nucleic acids.5,7  Each additionally include all important amino acids and contain no antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides.  As a result of the fabric is grown in an remoted setting with extremely managed inputs, it’s additionally very pure and faces no danger of contamination with environmental toxins or pathogens, as crops and animals do.

Food created from protein-rich, CO2-munching microbes stands out as the future, however this expertise continues to be very new, and startups nonetheless face enormous challenges earlier than they will totally commercialize their protein powders.  These embrace scaling up manufacturing, growing viable functions for the product, engineering and setting up manufacturing crops, acquiring regulatory permits, and advertising this radical idea to shoppers and traders.

Picture by Squirrel photos from Pixabay

The place Does This Match into the Food Provide?

 Now that making meals out of air not appears like loopy sorcery, chances are you’ll be considering, wow that’s neat, however will I actually be spooning powdered carbon-dioxide-eating microbes into my mouth throughout the subsequent 5 to ten years?  What’s going to this bizarre CO2-based meals appear like if and when it lastly hits grocery retailer cabinets?

It’s most definitely that the protein flour can be included into protein-enriched meals and drinks like pastas, breads, and shakes, or into extra sustainable feed for livestock and different animals.  Furthermore, there’s potential for it to combine with current alternative-protein merchandise, like plant-based burgers and yogurts that normally depend upon plant protein isolates, to additional lower down their environmental prices of manufacturing as they increase to meet rising client demand.  And for meals expertise that’s so out of this world, there are additionally out-of-this-world functions– Photo voltaic Meals is presently collaborating with the European Area Company to develop a potential resolution for feeding astronauts in area, since microbe bioreactors take up comparatively little area inside spaceships.  This might create a carbon-efficient closed loop during which CO2 exhaled by astronauts is reworked to make meals, which is then consumed and finally breathed out as CO2 to be recycled once more.

If the expertise turns into developed sufficient and accepted by shoppers, gadgets for changing air into your subsequent meal may discover their means into our houses and kitchens.  Whereas we’re nonetheless removed from uprooting unsustainable techniques in agriculture, innovations like this proceed to bend our definition of meals and level us in the direction of a future of infinite prospects.


[1]        “Each Chunk of Burger Boosts Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: UN Surroundings Company.”

UN Information, Eight Nov. 2018, https://information.un.org/en/story/2018/11/1025271.

[2]        “How We Make Air Based mostly Food.” Air Protein, 2019,


[3]        “Impression.” Photo voltaic Meals, Photo voltaic Meals Ltd., 2019, https://solarfoods.fi/impression/.

[4]        Plant-Based mostly Meat For a Rising World. The Good Food Institute, 2019,

https://www.gfi.org/photos/uploads/2019/08/GFI-Plant-Based mostly-Meat-Truth-Sheet_Environmental-Comparability.pdf?utm_source=weblog&utm_medium=web site&utm_campaign=pb-meat-sustainability.pdf.

[5]        “Protein Produced from Electrical energy to Alleviate World Starvation.” LUT College, LUT

College, 19 July 2017, https://www.lut.fi/internet/en/information/-/asset_publisher/lGh4SAywhcPu/content material/protein-produced-from-electricity-to-alleviate-world-hunger.

[6]        Ritala, Anneli, et al. “Single Cell Protein—State-of-the-Artwork, Industrial Panorama and

Patents 2001–2016.” Frontiers in Microbiology, vol. 8, Oct. 2017, p. 2009. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.02009.

[7]        Solein® Q&A. Photo voltaic Meals Ltd., 18 Nov. 2019,


[8]        “The Hidden Prices of Hamburgers.” PBS NewsHour, 2 Aug. 2012,


Mary-Ann Chen | Linkedin

Visitor SMF Weblog Author

Mary-Ann is from Irvine, CA and is presently pursuing her B.S. in Food Science at UC Davis.  She loves studying in regards to the chemistry behind meals and making an attempt out cool ingredient mixtures and hopes to discover a profession in growing wholesome, sustainable meals merchandise (or presumably science training).  In her free time, she enjoys in search of new music to pay attention to, studying cookbooks, taking part in badminton together with her household, and baking completely different flavors of granola.


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