Why identical copying is unnecessary for foodsynthesis

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This article defines a novel term (that is hopefully sensibly chosen). The term is introduced to make a concept more concrete and understand its interrelationship with other topics related to atomically precise manufacturing. For details go to the page: Neologism.

To begin with synthesis of food will likely be done in specialized devices much more advanced than basic gem-gum factories (the main far term focus of APM) which can only synthesize gemstone based metamaterials but no food.

When trying to imitate natural food:
While both at the molecular scale and at the macroscopic scale it is important to make a a good copy there is a size range in-between that is neither important from a nutritional/smell/taste/look perspective nor important from a look/texture perspective.

This is very convenient since replicating this intermediate scale highly accurately would be extremely difficult (not to say impossible) to archive.

The three size levels of food

Atomic & single molecule scale

At the atomic scale a human body very much cares which chemical elements are included in the food and in which way atoms of these chemical elements are bond to one another. This is what makes food healthy tasty colorful and durable.

Molecules in food must look have exactly the right topological structure (what is connected to what). Pictured here is Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Increasing healthiness with increasing mechanosynthesic capabilities

With a growing set of chain molecules that can be mechanosynthesized (which is not as easy as the mechanosynthesis of a very small set of crystalline structures that suffices for a extremely wide range of material properties) food can become increasingly healthy.

It takes a lot less molecules to get food into acceptably (but not exceedingly) tasty state than to get food into an acceptably healthy state. For illustration:

  • For the sugar molecule alone it will likely be comparatively easy to make specialized mechanosynthesis devices. And as we all know sugar alone is decently tasty.
  • For the ascorbic acid molecule (= vitamin C) alone it will likely be comparatively easy to make specialized mechanosynthesis devices. But as we all know vitamin C on its own is not really healthy.

Thus especially if advanced nanosystems are reached very rapidly in a more direct path approach than a incremental path approach (which currently 2017 seems not very likely) then then there might be a phase phase of cheap unhealthy food.

Micro scale

At the microscale the structure of food is pretty much irrelevant to a human body. These structures get destroyed early on in the digestion process or even earlier in the process of cooking. Also human senses can't perceive the fine details of the mechanical properties of the food (the foods texture) on this level. So there is no reason that motivates the replication of inter-cellular structures in food meant for ingestion.

There's no motivation to copy this structure for usage as food. Pictured here are some cell organelles. The onion like structures e.g. are the lipid membranes of the endoplasmatic reticulum - the "factories" of cells that produce proteins and lipids

Attempting robotic mechanosynthetic pick and place synthesis of (necessarily deep frozen) the structures found in living cells seems extremely difficult or rather borderline impossible. More detailed discussion of this matter can be found ion the main page: (TODO: find appropriate title)

Recreating the structure of real food on the intermolecular nanoscale is ridiculously difficult and pretty much unnecessary. Consider the structural complexity of a plant or animal cell (lipid layers cell organelles ...) and the large amounts of chemical compounds involved.

Food structure irrelevancy gap

With the term "food structure irrelevancy gap" here on this wiki we will refer to a size range in food in which human bodies do not care about the structure of the food. This is a size range where in the artificial synthesis of food there is the freedom to arrange the foods constituent molecules completely differently than the way they are structured in conventionally produced food.

Macro scale

At the macroscale again we very much care for the makeup of our food. The "irrelevancy gap" on the microscale below the perceivable makroscale most likely opens up enough design freedom such that the mechanical properties (the texture) of food can be emulated sufficiently well such that the fake food perfectly fools human senses. (The principle of metamaterials applied on food). If faking food this way is desirable and acceptable or not is a separate matter. Faking something like an apple is likely pretty difficult. Making something where humans have a high tolerance for variation like all the various things made from dough and pastes like bread, cake and chocolate is likely rather easy. In these cases the "irrelevancy gap" can be used for the creation of a wide varieties of novel qualities in food.

Pictured here is a plain old Apple (a fresco apple to be specific).
(TODO: add image of a cake too)

Paste microprinted metamaterial apple like thing - MAYBE

Production of a "thing" that is indistinguishable from an apple for human senses by means of bottom up synthesis that does not rely on living cellular machinery (that is there are no cultivated cells involved) seems pretty difficult but not impossible. That is only if one does not insist on replicating any cellular structures but does some microscale "inkjet-paste-printing" like process instead. The resulting apple like thing thus would be very different from an apple on the for humans imperceptible microscale.
(TODO: Link to elaboration on the preproduction of the "pastes".)

A perfectly replicated apple by putting every single presynthesized molecule in place ? - NO

If one does insist on replicating all the cellular structures by means of bottom up synthesis especially if one insists on replicating every little detail from some blueprint original (all the nooks and crannies of lipid membranes an how and where all the frozen water molecules lie - which is pretty silly) then this endeavor seems to move more into the realm of the borderline impossible.

Fake apple microprinted from Pre-cultivated cells - CERTAINLY

Production of a "thing" that is indistinguishable from an apple for human senses by means of microscale "inkjet-printed" of pre-cultivated living cells is probably easier than emulating mechanical properties by paste printing. The result could come actually close real apple even at the microscale. (Beside for food production this technique can be used for the production of living organs for transplantation.) Several of these fake apples compared to one another would look exactly identical on the macroascale but different on the microscale since cells have a lot of randomness in their growth patterns.
(TODO: Link to elaboration on the pre-cultivation of cells with use of advanced diamondoid systems.)


In the case of synthesis of tissue for medical treatments there's no such irrelevancy gap. A practical approach for these kind of things seem to be managed cell cultivation. And synthetic biology (which is strongly unrelated to APM).