Feeding the Future with NASA
Feeding the Future with NASA
As a kid, I never wanted to be an astronaut (I thought I’d become a fireman). But as a scientist, I’ve always appreciated the mantle of innovation and exploration that NASA holds in our collective imagination.
That’s why it’s a particular honor to share that AIR COMPANY is the winner of NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, which asked private companies to come up with ways to feed astronauts on extraordinarily long journeys, like manned-flights to Mars.
It turns out that transforming abundantly an available feedstock like carbon dioxide into something useful - with oxygen as the only byproduct - could be as useful in deep space as it is on Earth. Except in this case, AIRMADE™ technology made protein, and not sustainable jet fuel or carbon-negative award winning vodka or perfume.
Constant commitment to research and development is at the core of AIR COMPANY, and it’s what ultimately underlies any and all success across our entire line of AIRMADE products. This Challenge provided the perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate the capabilities of our proprietary carbon conversion technology, as well as further our partnership and work with NASA.
Our winning submission is a carbon derived single-cell protein developed with our patented and proprietary AIRMADE™ carbon conversion technology, which imitates the process of photosynthesis. Our method begins by using water electrolysis to split water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. From there, the hydrogen from the water electrolyzer is combined with carbon dioxide over catalysts to produce alcohols and water, which are diluted and combined with nitrogen and other minerals. Finally, microbes are added to consume the alcohol, producing a single cell protein.
While the technology has serious implications for the future of space travel, it also demonstrates solutions for the present, where food security on Earth is not guaranteed. AIRMADE™ technology has the potential to revolutionize agriculture and food production, reducing the dependence on traditional farming methods that require large amounts of water and land, and are famous sources of GHG emissions.
This isn’t the beginning of our journey with NASA, but another chapter of a relationship we’ve invested in for years. AIR COMPANY won first place in NASA’s CO2 Conversion Challenge for our ability to create carbon dioxide-derived sugars that could be created on Mars in 2021. In January 2023, we were awarded funding to continue our development of carbon-derived rocket fuel through NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award.
We believe that our technology has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the world and create a more sustainable future for all, whether that’s in food or fuel. The applications of our technology are seemingly endless. We’re excited to see where our continued experimentation takes us, both on and off Earth!