Okay, maybe not exactly thin air.
Scientists say besides carbon dioxide, it takes a couple of additional key ingredients — namely, electricity and a pinch of microbes.
But with that short grocery list they’ve managed to create something people can not only eat, but actually get nourishment from, according to a joint study from Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and VTT Technical Research Centre.
Essentially, the researchers used a bioreactor to swish around the microbe-and-CO2 cocktail before giving it a jolt.
The results? A powdery repast that’s about half protein, with another 25 percent carbohydrates. In others words, something that’s not only edible, but nourishing.
While the research is still in the early phase, the sky seems to be the limit for a basic meal that also happens to, literally, come from there — especially because some 795 million people, or one in nine, suffer from severe undernourishment.
"In practice, all the raw materials are available from the air," lead scientist Juha-Pekka Pitkanen said in a release. "In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine."
Not only that, but every household could have a magic oven — "a type of domestic appliance that the consumer can use to produce the needed protein," Pitkanen added.
In fact, the Finnish wizards … err .. scientists, claim it takes about two weeks to produce a single gram of the basic food. And, of course, taste-wise, this single-cell protein could probably use a dash of Jamie Oliver.
But being able to conjure basic nutrition from the elements — a method that researchers say is about 10 times as energy-efficient as common photosynthesis — could be just what the world's belly is grumbling for.
"The idea is to develop the concept into a mass product, with a price that drops as the technology becomes more common," scientist Jero Ahola noted in the release. "The schedule for commercialisation depends on the economy."