Researchers at MIT's Tangible Media Group may have solved high shipping and packaging costs with one very weird food item, according to Newsweek.
They’re calling it “shape-shifting pasta.” The flat sheets of gelatin and starch they’ve created actually transform into 3D pasta shapes as soon as they come into contact with water. The flat sheets can be stacked to make packing and shipping foods like pasta much more efficient. It's like if IKEA made fusilli.
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“We did some simple calculations, such as for macaroni pasta, and even if you pack it perfectly, you still will end up with 67 percent of the volume as air,” said Wen Wang, a co-author of the research, told Newsweek.
That’s an expensive waste of space.
Apparently, Wang and her team got the idea for food that transforms when it hits the water by researching bacteria that has the same properties naturally. This bacteria also appears in the fermentation of a Japanese soybean-based superfood called natto.
The team then 3D-printed “edible cellulose onto layers of gelatin containing the bacteria.”
They also printed different patterns onto the cellulose sheets, each one resulting in a different shape when it came in contact with the water, which means that in the future, if you were buy these edible sheets at the store, they would transform into familiar pasta shapes as soon as you dumped them in the pot.
Another researcher on the study named Lining Yao said that printing different patterns on each sheet would allow food companies to “control the degree of bending and the total geometry of the structure.”
The researchers ended up collaborating with a chef, where they created several dishes in the kitchen using their technique. Once they figured out that their experiments had practical applications in cuisine, the MIT team built computer models that would allow interested users to create their own edible pasta shapes.
“With this tool, we want to democratize the design of noodles,” said Yao.
So, not only could this invention allow food companies to sustainably ship their products, it might even allow anyone to create their own personal macaroni. It's about time we were all able to express ourselves through pasta.