Morphing pasta as new metamaterial

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (USA) developed flat-packed pasta that morphs into shape when cooked.

Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes, each having a different mouth-feel because of it. However, due to these iconic shapes, the pasta has to be packaged in larger bags or boxes.

The research team, led by the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon, developed flat pasta that forms into familiar shapes when cooked. This means that the pasta can be flat-packed, saving material and storage space.

To make the pasta morph, the researchers impress tiny grooves into flat pasta dough, made of only semolina flour and water, in certain patterns. The grooves stamped into the flat pasta sheets increase the time it takes water to cook that area of the pasta, as The groove side expands less than the smooth side, leading the pasta to morph into shape. By carefully planning where and how to place the grooves, the researchers can control what shape of pasta forms when it is cooked. When cooked, these allow the pasta to morph into tubes, spirals, twists and waves.

The morphed pasta, looks, feels, and most importantly, tastes the same as traditional pasta. In addition, the new method allows for new possibilities in food design.

Pasta and other culinary opportunities aside, the method of using grooves can be used to control the morphed shape of any swellable material. The research team demonstrated that the same technique can be used to morph silicon sheets, potentially usable in soft robotics and biomedical devices.

Image: Carnegie Mellon University