'Morphing pasta' designed to cut packaging

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
7 May 2021

Researchers have developed “morphing pasta” that can be stored and shipped flat but changes into various shapes when cooked.

The team at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, who worked in collaboration with Syracuse University, said more than 60% of packaging space for 3D pasta such as macaroni was air. “By making flatpack pasta, we can save a large portion of the packaging space for food,” they said.

The technology involves cutting grooves into the surface of the pasta, which when heated in water swells and twists into “designed, three-dimensional shapes”.

“Inspired by how furniture is flat packed to save packaging space and carbon footprint during transportation, we developed a groove-based shape morphing technique that can make many types of materials, especially edible materials such as authentic Italian pasta made of semolina flour and water, flat-packed and morph when cooked,” the team said.  

“The plastic material used in food packaging is a major contributor to landfills in the United States. Finding effective food packaging strategies is crucial to maintaining a sustainable future. We proposed the design concept of morphing food that can be flat-packed to reduce packing space during transportation and storage.

“The grooves can be realised with a single material and fabricated using low-cost manufacturing methods, such as stamping, molding, and casting.”

The researchers said the shape of food impacted its carbon footprint during cooking. “In Italy 0.7% to 1% of greenhouse gas emissions is due to cooking pasta and these emissions could be reduced by half if the shape and cooking processes could be optimised,” they said.

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