When you think of IKEA and food, you probably think meatballs. But now, thanks to researchers at Carnegie Mellon, you may also think pasta, as the team’s created “morphing” versions of the wheat-water-and-egg pieces that flat-pack just like furniture from the Swedish megastore. “Assembling” the pasta is also easy as it only requires boiling it in water. (Which is great, because who needs yet another one-off allen wrench?)
Inverse reported on the prototype pasta pieces, which the researchers described in a paper published in the journal Science Advances. The director of the University’s Morphing Matter Lab, Lining Yao, led the team as it aimed to figure out how to significantly diminish the amount of packaging necessary to transport pasta.
Which, in turn, could significantly reduce the food’s carbon footprint.
To make the flat-packed pasta, the team developed a “groove-based morphing technique” that’s suitable for low-cost manufacturing. The method calls for stamping grooves into flat—or otherwise easily packable—pasta that allow for asynchronous swelling or deswelling. This swelling and deswelling, in turn, can transform flat objects into three-dimensional shapes.
In the video above, the researchers show how they create the pasta with a stamping press. As well as a demonstration of the final product. At just over a minute in, we watch as someone takes the flat-packed noodles out of what looks like an oversized matchbox. She then proceeds to drop them into a pot of boiling water and waits until they fold into 3D shapes; ones that look like a splicing of pappardelle with fusilli.
Morphing Matter Lab
“For 3D-shaped pasta like macaroni, more than 60% of the packaging space is used to pack air,” the researchers write in a blog post. “By making flatpack pasta, we can save a large portion of the packaging space for food,” the team adds.
It’s unclear what plans the researchers have to help mass produce the morphing pastas, but somebody should get on it. The flat-packed noodles, the researchers say, would be ideal for hiking trips, “disaster site food delivery,” and even for missions into space. Which is kind of ironic if you let the idea bloom in your head like a transforming piece of rigatoni.