Flat-Packed Pasta: The Shape of the Future?

Flat-Packed Pasta: The Shape of the Future?

At the risk of carbo-loading this newsletter, here is more pasta shape news that I found too delicious to pass up! A team working in Carnegie Mellon University’s Morphing Matter Lab has devised a way to “flat pack” pasta — stamping noodles with strategic ridges that allow them to spring up into fancy shapes when boiled. In addition to the cool-factor, these innovative shapes have the potential to minimize packaging and production waste, as well as maximize storage and shipping capabilities.

“The grooves stamped into the flat pasta sheets increase the time it takes water to cook that area of the pasta. By carefully planning where and how to place the grooves, the researchers can control what shape of pasta forms when it is cooked.

‘The groove side expands less than the smooth side, leading the pasta to morph into shape,’ said Teng Zhang, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who led the modeling analysis in this project.

Grooves can be used to control the morphed shape of any swellable material. The team has demonstrated that it can morph silicon sheets using the same groove technique. […]

Traditional pasta already morphs when cooked, expanding and softening when boiled. The team harnessed these natural properties to create its flat-packed product.”

The CMU team co-authored a paper with researchers from Syracuse University and Zhejiang University, from departments as diverse as mechanical engineering and computational fabrication and design. It was published it in Science Advances last month. The team envisions equally wide-ranging applications of this technology — beyond the kitchen, and into soft robotics and medical devices. This is not to say culinary goals are any less noble: the researchers theorize this could even reduce the energy required to cook the pasta, and therefore the user’s carbon footprint. (And we all know we could use help with those.) I’ll top my serving of saving-the-world with a nice marinara and a meatball or two, thank you!