Imagine drinking orange juice out of an orange-flavored container that you can chew after.
Or ice cream in a non-melting chocolate envelope. WikiCells, unveiled last week, could change how we store our food.
David Edwards once came up with a method for delivering drugs inside porous wiffle balls of inhalable insulin (Idea #3). He wrote two textbooks (Ideas #1 and #2), developed a water-carrying device modeled after a biological cell (Idea # 22), and opened an arts and science incubator, Le Laboratoire in Paris, to foster similar blue skies innovations (Idea # 9). The lab spawns the kind of apparatuses you’d expect to encounter at Starbucks 50 years from now: a plant-powered personal air filter (Idea #10 and #16), breathable chocolate bars (Idea #15), and, the latest, an edible food packaging called WikiCells (Idea #31). It’s been in development for a long time, but Edwards finally unveiled the project last week in Paris. Now that it’s public, he believes it will transform the future of food.
More than a decade after publishing a study in Science and selling a promising idea for an inhaled drug delivery system, Edwards, a biomedical engineer at Harvard, realized that his idea remained just an idea thanks in large part to the whims of the pharmaceutical market. “In a world where things are changing so rapidly, à la Facebook, the notion of a 15-year or 10-year timeline to see what an idea can really be is not so exciting for an innovator,” he says. “Nor is it very helpful for the public.”
Quick flashback to 1967: Benjamin Braddock, with the pool twinkling behind him, hears one word about the future: “plastics.” Fast forward to 2012: Plastics make up a dramatically increasing (an estimated 12%) portion of our waste. Long after the last drop of orange juice’s been guzzled or the last slice of American cheese been unwrapped, plastic packaging travels down the removal chain, breaking into smaller and smaller bits, fluttering around in landfills or floating in ocean gyres. If all that packaging was edible, though, we’d have eaten it up along with with our OJ and cheese, and it would never be seen again. That’s the idea of the WikiCell.
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