Qatari students aim to make ‘food accessible to people all over the world’ with their newly invented 3D printer.
Innovation in the heart of Qatar has birthed a groundbreaking solution to the widespread issue of food insecurity. Two visionary students, Mohammad Annan, aged 20, and Lujain Al Mansoori, aged 21, both pursuing information systems at Doha's Carnegie Mellon University, have achieved an extraordinary feat - the creation of a 3D printer capable of mass-producing vegetables, offering a potential remedy to the global food crisis.
An Unprecedented Breakthrough
Annually, millions around the world grapple with food scarcity, a problem further exacerbated by various factors including climate change, conflicts, and economic instability. Recognizing the urgency of the issue, Annan and Al Mansoori embarked on a mission to redefine conventional agriculture by harnessing 3D printing technology. Their groundbreaking innovation centers around the utilization of artificially grown vegetable cells and UV light to produce edible vegetables – a feat previously unheard of in the world of agriculture.
Top Honors and Unwavering Determination
Their relentless pursuit of a sustainable solution has not gone unnoticed. In August, at the Business Incubation and Acceleration Hackathon hosted by Qatar Development Bank, Annan and Al Mansoori clinched the top prize in the FoodTech category. Their win signals the potential of their groundbreaking technology to revolutionize the way we grow and distribute food.
The Birth of a 3D Printer
Annan and Al Mansoori's journey began with the construction of a 3D printer, built entirely from scratch. This journey took them across the globe in search of the necessary components to fashion a machine capable of accomplishing something previously thought to be beyond the realm of possibility - the 3D printing of a fully edible carrot. While 3D printing of edibles was not entirely new, it was primarily confined to the use of purees derived from conventionally grown vegetables or fruits. These methods, however, could not support large-scale production, a limitation that the duo sought to overcome.
Masked Stereolithography Technology
To achieve their ambitious goals, Annan and Al Mansoori extended and improved upon existing masked stereolithography technology. This method harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to "set" the inks, resulting in rapid, large-scale printing. Their innovation facilitates mass production as it leverages ultraviolet light, a concept previously utilized with resins but never before employed with edible materials. Annan explains, "[Our] technology supports mass production because it uses ultraviolet light. This type of printing has been done before using ultraviolet light with resin, but it’s never been done before using edible material."
Simplifying the Complex
While their technology is groundbreaking, Annan and Al Mansoori acknowledge the challenge of making it accessible to the general public. They seek to demystify their revolutionary concept and make it understandable to the average person. Annan remarks, "There is a learning curve to be able to communicate it clearly so that it's not too alien. How do we communicate this without seeming like we're crazy?"
Tackling Food Insecurity
The significance of their innovation extends far beyond the confines of their laboratory. In Qatar, a nation with only 2.5 percent of its land area suitable for agriculture, food security is a pressing concern. Annan points out that the country heavily relies on imports, a situation that the duo's innovation seeks to address. By using a process known as plant cell culture, they harvest and multiply vegetable cells under sterile laboratory conditions, subsequently converting these cells into UV-sensitive printer ink. The result? A 3D-printed carrot that mimics the nutritional value of its conventionally grown counterpart, despite being cultivated in a controlled lab environment.
A Glimpse into the Future
Their ambitious project began with carrots as a proof of concept due to the extensive research conducted on this particular vegetable. Looking forward, Annan and Al Mansoori aspire to expand their horizons to encompass a variety of fruits and vegetables that are climate-specific and rare. Their ultimate goal is to make this groundbreaking technology accessible to a global audience.
A Solution for a Global Crisis
The global food crisis remains a pressing issue, affecting millions worldwide. Annan and Al Mansoori, through their innovative 3D printing technology, offer not only a beacon of hope but also a cost-effective solution. By reducing the reliance on expansive agricultural land and maintenance costs, their 3D-printed carrots can potentially offer a more economical food source. The cost-effectiveness of their venture is evident in the reduced price of 3D-printed carrots, which are currently available at a fraction of the cost of conventionally grown carrots.
A Vision for the Future
Annan and Al Mansoori's vision extends far beyond the walls of their university laboratory. They envision a future where 3D food printers are a common sight in restaurants, supermarkets, and hospitals, revolutionizing the way we access and consume food. Their technology has the potential to make food accessible to individuals across the globe, offering a glimmer of hope in the face of an ever-pressing global challenge.
About the Creator
My name is Nizam Uddin and I am thrilled to be a part of Vocal.com's community of writers. As a passionate technology enthusiast, I am excited to share my insights and opinions on the latest trends and innovations in the world of tech.