Inside Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, researchers have been hard at work developing stuff that will—to use a phrase common among members of the scientific community—blow your goddamn mind. The gifted minds of the Morphing Matter Lab have put their advanced educations and superior intellects to uses beyond coming up with impossibly cool lab names, developing such wonders as self-folding origami, which they call Thermorph. The process, reports Trib Live, relies on the warpage typical of 3D printers, making what would otherwise be considered a manufacturing defect into a feature, not a bug. They print a flat object using some material that commonly warps and some that doesn’t. Put the object in hot water, some of it warps, and boom. Instant origami.
But we are burying the lede here, because the Morphing Matter Lab is also working on self-folding pasta.
Lab Director Lining Yao and her team, which Trib Live reports is made up of “researchers and students studying materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science and costume design,” use a number of methods to achieve this straight-up culinary witchcraft. According to Morphing Matter, these include “2D-to-3D folding, hydration-induced wrapping, and temperature-induced self-fragmentation, to present the shape, texture, and interaction with food materials.” Starts flat, just add water, and holy shit, it’s rigatoni.
This isn’t some idle project. Yao is working with Barilla, which is sending Italian semolina flour over the pond so that this science-food could actually taste like food-food. There’s a purpose beyond coolness, too, though it’s certainly cool. Yao told Trib Live that creating pasta that ships flat and assumes its shape in water “could save nearly 60 percent of the packaging costs compared to traditional pasta and cut back on packaging waste.”
They’re also working on sleeves that automatically roll themselves up when you get hot and jackets that get puffed up when it’s cold, because we live in the future and who the hell needs a flying car? Morphing Matter’s researchers aren’t alone in exploring the uses of food and 3D printing, either, so get ready for a lifetime of meals that kinda sorta remind one of Magic Grow Capsules.