'SpaceBread' trades yeast for chemistry, rises in 5 seconds flat

One of the NASA Space Apps Challenges that we didn't hear so much about was BakerFaire: how to make bread in space. In just three hours, 16 year old Sam Wilkinson managed to come up with a way to make bread rise instantly in microgravity without using yeast.

For the non-bakers among you, yeast is what transforms things like matzah into things like baguettes: it's a leavening agent, in this case microbes, that fart out the carbon dioxide gas that instills bread with a fluffy, airy texture. There are lots of other chemical leavening agents (like baking powder) that do the same thing, but it's a tedious and sometimes messy process that you'd probably want to avoid when baking bread up in space.

Since all you really need to get bread dough to rise is flour, water, and the carbon dioxide itself, Wilkinson decided to do away with the middleman and just force the CO2 into the bread directly. He added carbon dioxide gas to water at 2.5 atmospheres, and then added flour and water to the resulting solution to make bread dough. When the pressure was released, all the CO2 trapped in the water bubbled out at once (like what happens when you open a bottle of soda) and there you go, bread dough ready for baking. You can see the result in the video below.

Wilkinson's Space App presentation also included ideas for ways to make dough and bake bread in microgravity that would result in substantial savings in energy and resources: since both water and CO2 can be recycled, all that's necessary to make SpaceBread is the flour itself plus a source of energy. Mind you, we're not exactly sure how this bread will taste (since the recipe doesn't call for salt or sugar either), but we're guessing that astronauts wouldn't turn down the idea of anything freshly baked up on the ISS.

SpaceBread, via NASA

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook