By Fred Miller
U of A System Division of Agriculture
FAYETTEVILLE, — Picture this: As you walk to your car after work, you select a meal from a smartphone menu of your favorites and press “send.” By the time you get home, your food is waiting for you in a 3D printer.
Sound like science fiction? Wait … it gets better.
You can give up the guilt over chosing pepperoni pizza three times this week. During your drive home, the 3D food printer has added nanoscale micronutrients customized to your dietary needs. It also added your daily blood pressure and allergy medicines, making your pizza not only good, but good for you.
Reality check — consumer model 3D food printers are not on the shelves just yet. But Ali Ubeyitogullari is pressing toward the day when they will be.
Ubeyitogullari has joined the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, as a food engineer. He has research appointments in the departments of food science and biological and agricultural engineering. He also has a teaching appointment in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.
“We’re very excited that Dr. Ubeyitogullari has joined our research and teaching faculty,” said Jeyam Subbiah, food science department head. “He employs green technology, nanotechnology and 3D printing to improve healthy and sustainable food production.
“His work cuts across disciplines, employing food engineering and a strong background in food chemistry with an application in human nutrition,” Subbiah said. “And it promotes multi-departmental collaboration between food science and biological and agricultural engineering.”
“Dr. Subbiah and I have a goal to build a core of excellence in food engineering in the Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas,” said Lalit Verma, biological and agricultural engineering department head.
“Dr. Ali Ubeyitogullari is a great addition to the research capabilities in the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station in the food engineering specialty,” Verma said. “His joint appointment with our department complements our food engineering expertise to serve the needs of the state and nation.”
A native of Turkey, Ubeyitogullari earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food engineering from Middle East Technical University, and his doctorate in food science and technology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Ubeyitogullari then served post-doctoral appointments at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in lipid chemistry and processing, and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in novel food processes and engineering. He joined the Division of Agriculture and Bumpers College in September 2020 as an assistant professor.
Ubeyitogullari said he is assembling his lab at the intersection of food engineering and human health. To accomplish this, he is focusing on two parallel projects. First, he is applying supercritical carbon dioxide technology — a novel green technology — to improve the bioavailability of micronutrients in human foods.
Micronutrients include many elements, like iron, and vitamins, including vitamins A and D, that are essential for human growth and health. Ubeyitogullari said the physical structures of these substances make them difficult for the body to absorb. As a result, many important nutrients in human foods are wasted. Vitamin supplements are among the least bioactive forms of micronutrients, Ubeyitogullari said. “People spend a lot of money buying vitamins, and most of their nutrition value is flushed away,” he said.