Ever noticed how much air is in a box of spiral or ziti pasta? Those fun shapes take up a lot of space, requiring larger boxes. Bigger boxes mean more packaging waste and larger footprints on grocery shelves. That’s why Dr. Lining Yao of Carnegie Mellon’s Morphing Matter Lab and her colleagues set out to “solve the problem of puffed-up pasta boxes.”
Irregular shapes don’t stack nicely and neatly in a box. So, Yao and her team asked this question: “What if different pasta shapes could be flat-packed into containers…?” The idea was to design a new pasta that shipped flat and cooked up in 3D shapes.
To make this pasta transformation take place, the researchers “mapped out tiny grooves and ridges” on the flat noodles. When the origami pasta hits the boiling water, it expands at different rates around the ridges and grooves. This response causes it to fold into shapes like self-folding origami pasta. How fun is that? You toss in the pasta and watch it curl into a new form!
Shapes Yao’s team have developed so far include boxes, rose-like flowers, and helix curls. View more pasta shapes up close and in action on the NPR Science Friday website.
This story caught our attention because it’s about taking something with a long tradition and innovating to solve a problem with it. We’re curious. How is your company innovating?
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Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon’s Morphing Matter Lab via NPR