CMU Lab Leads Development of Pasta That Morphs
Flat-packed noodles create more sustainable packaging, transportation and storage
By Aaron AupperleeMedia Inquiries
- School of Computer Science
A research team led by the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University is developing flat pasta that forms into familiar shapes when cooked. The team impresses tiny grooves into flat pasta dough — made of only semolina flour and water — in patterns that cause it to morph into tubes, spirals, twists and waves.
The morphed pasta looks, feels and, most importantly, tastes like traditional pasta, opening new possibilities for food design and allowing for flat-packed pasta that would cut back on packaging, save space in storage and transportation, and possibly reduce the time and energy needed for cooking.
The team published their understanding of the morphing mechanism and design principles in the paper "Morphing Pasta and Beyond," which is the cover story of the May 2021 issue of Science Advances. Authors include 17 researchers from CMU, Syracuse University and Zhejiang University, specializing in fields including material science, mechanical engineering, computational fabrication and design.
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.
Morphing pasta shapes before and after cooking.
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.
"This could potentially be used in soft robotics and biomedical devices", said Wen Wang, a former researcher affiliated with the Morphing Matter Lab.
The plastic material used in food packaging contributes greatly to landfills worldwide, and packaging litters the world's oceans. Creating effective food packaging is crucial to reducing waste and shaping a sustainable future.
The morphing pasta builds on years of research by Yao and the Morphing Matter Lab on morphing mechanisms and applications with different materials ranging from plastic and rubber to fabric and food.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the CMU Manufacturing Futures Initiative and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.