MIT researchers create flat-pack food that takes shape in water

Researchers at MIT’s Tangible Media Group have brought the ethos of flat-packing to food, creating pasta shapes that go from two-dimensional to three-dimensional when dunked in water.

The “programmable pasta” has gelatine mixed in with the starch. Gelatine naturally expands upon absorbing water, giving the researchers a way to manipulate the foodstuff.

As with flat-pack furniture, the main benefit of the team’s invention would be to save money on food shipping costs.

By having macaroni that stores flat instead of in its individual curls, for instance, distributors could fit a greater amount of the food into the same space, while still allowing the end user to eat a textured, three-dimensional meal.

“We did some simple calculations, such as for macaroni pasta, and even if you pack it perfectly, you still will end up with 67 percent of the volume as air,” said Wen Wang, one of the team’s research scientists.

“We thought maybe in the future our shape-changing food could be packed flat and save space.”

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