Transformative Appetite computer generated pastathat is 2d printed and unfolds while being cooked
Food Technology

Transformative Appetite: Shape-Shifting Pasta

Not grown in a field but programmed on a computer. MIT’s futuristic pasta is a 2D printed edible, natural material that turns into a designed 3D shape when dunked into boiling water. It’s morphing time!

The project called Transformative Appetite was developed by the Tangible Media Group, and in particular by Lining Yao, Chinese designer specialized in Smart and Living Materials. In her vision a natural element, water, is used as stimulant to trigger the transformation process.

The programmable pasta is a mix of gelatine, cellulose and starch. Gelatine naturally expands when absorbing water, giving the researchers a way to manipulate the food. In order to achieve controllable bending behavior, the team introduced ethyl cellulose strips as both shape constraints and water barriers on top of the film.

“With this process something usually extremely functional as food becomes esthetical” Yao explained. “Consumers could create their personal pasta shape and customize the transformation through a online software”. But this newly designed pasta does not just look amazing on the plate, it might also contribute to a more sustainable way of transporting food. Containing 67% less air than a conventional macaroni package, the approach of shape-shifting pasta would save a lot of space and therefore energy.

According to Yao the transformative pasta has a good texture, but she confessed “it does not have the traditional pasta flavor yet”. That’s why she is currently in contact with Italian pasta manufacturer Barilla, “the next step is to make it taste like real pasta” she told us. The team also worked with chef Matthew Delisle from Boston to craft a selection of dishes, test sauce combinations and different variations, such as plankton ink and squid flavored pasta.

While computer pasta sounds more like a bunch of knotted cables rather than a delicious dish, it deserves at least a try, because what does your macaroni do?

A tip for our Italian friends: tonight, June 7, at 19:30 Lining Yao will take the podium at Meet the Media Guru in Milan to explain this and many other projects. The event is free!

Post by Julie Reindl and Alessia Andreotti

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