Tech by VICE

These Weird Flattened Noodles Will Change the Way We Pack Food

MIT engineers have figured out how to 3D print pasta to save space.

by Mallory Locklear
May 26 2017, 5:00pm

Noodles are really good and slurping them can be fun, but what if your noodles changed shape right in front of you?

Some MIT engineers have done just that. They made a totally new kind of pasta by layering gelatin sheets of different densities. The more densely packed top layer can absorb more water than the lower layer. So, when it's dunked in water, the top layer curls over the bottom. Aside from just being and weird new way to mess with food, this new noodle is actually very useful for food shipping. The noodles, in theory, can be packaged flat, saving a lot of wasted airspace that many pastas take up in their boxes.

To create various designs, including traditional pasta shapes and even things like flowers, edible cellulose was printed on top of the gelatin sheet. The cellulose, which absorbs very little water, acts like a barrier and controls which parts of the gelatin get exposed to the water. So, the ultimate pasta shape just depends on the design of the cellulose printing.

The researchers used a 3D printer, but they say you can achieve a similar effect with screenprinting. They envision accessible software in the future that would provide noodle designs and companies that would ship materials to you. "With this tool, we want to democratize the design of noodles," Lining Yao, a researcher on the project, said in a report.

The design was described in a paper presented this month at the Association for Computing Machinery's 2017 Computer-Human Interaction Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.