OREANDA-NEWS. A Finnish start-up has figured out how to turn carbon dioxide into protein. The new development could revolutionise the food industry and become the basis for producing products for future Mars colonists. 

The engineers at the young Finnish company Solar Foods have created a brand new food ingredient - a tasteless, dark yellow powder called "solein". It is a complete protein that has all the amino acids humans need.

Solein is produced by special bacteria which feed on hydrogen, oxygen, CO2 and a number of minerals. The micro-organisms live in water through which an electric current is passed. It splits the liquid into oxygen and hydrogen molecules. Then CO2, iron, potassium and calcium are added. Microbes "feed" on the mixture, leading to fermentation. The process is similar to the way yeast behaves in beer wort. Once the microbes are saturated, desiccation takes place, causing a powder to form.

This technology for creating protein was discovered back in the 1960s by NASA researchers, who were looking for a way to efficiently store food for space missions. However, they didn't get much further than writing a report. The idea was found in the archives in 2017 by scientists from two Finnish universities. Convinced it worked, they founded Solar Foods. Engineers are now working on using Solein as a food source for future missions to Mars. Since the planet's atmosphere is 95.3 per cent CO2, the main ingredient will not need to be flown in from Earth. 

Of course, Solar Foods understands that no one will eat tasteless powder instead of steaks and kebabs. The engineers' idea is that the saltine can be added to ordinary dishes, such as noodles or cereal. People will get the amino acids they need without harming nature.