Jul 24, 2017 | Updated: 03:03 PM EDT

Space Technology to Feed Astronauts on Mars Will First Benefit People in Africa

Apr 20, 2017 12:01 PM EDT

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Researchers from the Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department at Purdue University with their scaled-down food extruder.
(Photo : Purdue University) Researchers from the Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department at Purdue University with their scaled-down food extruder. From left: Carlos Corvalan, Osvaldo Campanella, Martin Okos and Amudhan Ponrajan.

The technology to feed astronauts for the mission to Mars will be first used to increase food production in Africa. The technology was developed by the Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at the Purdue University.

NASA commissioned the researchers of the Purdue University to create a small extruder to process a variety of grains for the mission to Mars. The researchers, led by Martin Okos are able to scale down the extruder to make puffed cereals, snacks and pasta with the extrusion process.

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Okos is the Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at the Purdue University. His research is focused on food process engineering, particularly the heat and mass transfer in foods, fermentation, and biological reactor design. That includes the research to scale down the food extrusion machine to process grain into dried flour using friction heat.

It seems the first application of the Purdue University's food extruder is not in the outer space, but here on Earth. According to the official release from Purdue University, the lightweight food extruder will have an immediate benefit for food production in African countries.

In Africa, many of the traditional porridges are made from grains that required a labor intensive work. For instance, in the West African urban area, as illustrated by Phys.org, usually 10 women are required to work together to make a traditional food like couscous. It takes a full working day for the women to produce 30 kilograms of couscous, while the food extruder from Purdue University will be able to produce much more than that amount.

The food extruder is able to scale down the effort and increase the production. With the same number of workers, the women can produce 35 kilograms of couscous per hour with the device. Furthermore, the Purdue University's modified food extruder for Africa is much cheaper in producing the food than the large scale food extruder. Watch other research from the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department at Purdue University below:

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